Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Raising of Lazarus

"But, perhaps, there is no God at all," Raskolnikov answered with a sort of malignance, laughed and looked at her.

Sonia's face suddenly changed; a tremor passed over it. She looked at him with unutterable reproach, tried to say something, but could not speak and broke into bitter, bitter sobs, hiding her face in her hands.

"You say Katerina Ivanovna's mind is unhinged; your own mind is unhinged," he said after a brief silence.

Five minutes passed. He still paced up and down the room in silence, not looking at her. At last he went up to her; his eyes glittered. He put his two hands on her shoulders and looked straight into her tearful face. His eyes were hard, feverish and piercing, his lips were twitching. All at once he bent down quickly and dropping to the ground, kissed her foot. Sonia drew back from him as from a madman. And certainly he looked like a madman.

"What are you doing to me?" she muttered, turning pale, and a sudden anguish clutched at her heart.

He stood up at once.

"I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity," he said wildly and walked away to the window. "Listen," he added, turning to her a minute later. "I said just now to an insolent man that he was not worth your little finger... and that I did my sister honour making her sit beside you."

"Ach, you said that to them! And in her presence?" cried Sonia, frightened. "Sit down with me! An honour! Why, I'm... dishonourable.... Ah, why did you say that?"

"It was not because of your dishonour and your sin I said that of you, but because of your great suffering. But you are a great sinner, that's true," he added almost solemnly, "and your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing. Isn't that fearful? Isn't it fearful that you are living in this filth which you loathe so, and at the same time you know yourself (you've only to open your eyes) that you are not helping anyone by it, not saving anyone from anything? Tell me," he went on almost in a frenzy, "how this shame and degradation can exist in you side by side with other, opposite, holy feelings? It would be better, a thousand times better and wiser to leap into the water and end it all!"

"But what would become of them?" Sonia asked faintly, gazing at him with eyes of anguish, but not seeming surprised at his suggestion.

Raskolnikov looked strangely at her. He read it all in her face; so she must have had that thought already, perhaps many times, and earnestly she had thought out in her despair how to end it and so earnestly, that now she scarcely wondered at his suggestion. She had not even noticed the cruelty of his words. (The significance of his reproaches and his peculiar attitude to her shame she had, of course, not noticed either, and that, too, was clear to him.) But he saw how monstrously the thought of her disgraceful, shameful position was torturing her and had long tortured her. "What, what," he thought, "could hitherto have hindered her from putting an end to it?" Only then he realised what those poor little orphan children and that pitiful half-crazy Katerina Ivanovna, knocking her head against the wall in her consumption, meant for Sonia.

But, nevertheless, it was clear to him again that with her character and the amount of education she had after all received, she could not in any case remain so. He was still confronted by the question, how could she have remained so long in that position without going out of her mind, since she could not bring herself to jump into the water? Of course he knew that Sonia's position was an exceptional case, though unhappily not unique and not infrequent, indeed; but that very exceptionalness, her tinge of education, her previous life might, one would have thought, have killed her at the first step on that revolting path. What held her up—surely not depravity? All that infamy had obviously only touched her mechanically, not one drop of real depravity had penetrated to her heart; he saw that. He saw through her as she stood before him....

"There are three ways before her," he thought, "the canal, the madhouse, or... at last to sink into depravity which obscures the mind and turns the heart to stone."

The last idea was the most revolting, but he was a skeptic, he was young, abstract, and therefore cruel, and so he could not help believing that the last end was the most likely.

"But can that be true?" he cried to himself. "Can that creature who has still preserved the purity of her spirit be consciously drawn at last into that sink of filth and iniquity? Can the process already have begun? Can it be that she has only been able to bear it till now, because vice has begun to be less loathsome to her? No, no, that cannot be!" he cried, as Sonia had just before. "No, what has kept her from the canal till now is the idea of sin and they, the children.... And if she has not gone out of her mind... but who says she has not gone out of her mind? Is she in her senses? Can one talk, can one reason as she does? How can she sit on the edge of the abyss of loathsomeness into which she is slipping and refuse to listen when she is told of danger? Does she expect a miracle? No doubt she does. Doesn't that all mean madness?"

He stayed obstinately at that thought. He liked that explanation indeed better than any other. He began looking more intently at her.

"So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?" he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

"What should I be without God?" she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

"Ah, so that is it!" he thought.

"And what does God do for you?" he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

"Be silent! Don't ask! You don't deserve!" she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

"That's it, that's it," he repeated to himself.

"He does everything," she whispered quickly, looking down again.

"That's the way out! That's the explanation," he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger—and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. "She is a religious maniac!" he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

"Where did you get that?" he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

"It was brought me," she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

"Who brought it?"

"Lizaveta, I asked her for it."

"Lizaveta! strange!" he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

"Where is the story of Lazarus?" he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

"Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia."

She stole a glance at him.

"You are not looking in the right place.... It's in the fourth gospel," she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

"Find it and read it to me," he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

"In three weeks' time they'll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place," he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov's request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

"Haven't you read it?" she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

"Long ago.... When I was at school. Read!"

"And haven't you heard it in church?"

"I... haven't been. Do you often go?"

"N-no," whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

"I understand.... And you won't go to your father's funeral to-morrow?"

"Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too... I had a requiem service."

"For whom?"

"For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe."

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

"Were you friends with Lizaveta?"

"Yes.... She was good... she used to come... not often... she couldn't.... We used to read together and... talk. She will see God."

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them—religious maniacs.

"I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It's infectious!"

"Read!" he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the "unhappy lunatic."

"What for? You don't believe?..." she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly.

"Read! I want you to," he persisted. "You used to read to Lizaveta."

Sonia opened the book and found the place. Her hands were shaking, her voice failed her. Twice she tried to begin and could not bring out the first syllable.

"Now a certain man was sick named Lazarus of Bethany..." she forced herself at last to read, but at the third word her voice broke like an overstrained string. There was a catch in her breath.

Raskolnikov saw in part why Sonia could not bring herself to read to him and the more he saw this, the more roughly and irritably he insisted on her doing so. He understood only too well how painful it was for her to betray and unveil all that was her own. He understood that these feelings really were her secret treasure, which she had kept perhaps for years, perhaps from childhood, while she lived with an unhappy father and a distracted stepmother crazed by grief, in the midst of starving children and unseemly abuse and reproaches. But at the same time he knew now and knew for certain that, although it filled her with dread and suffering, yet she had a tormenting desire to read and to read to him that he might hear it, and to read now whatever might come of it!... He read this in her eyes, he could see it in her intense emotion. She mastered herself, controlled the spasm in her throat and went on reading the eleventh chapter of St. John. She went on to the nineteenth verse:

"And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother.

"Then Martha as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.

"Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

"But I know that even now whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee...."

Then she stopped again with a shamefaced feeling that her voice would quiver and break again.

"Jesus said unto her, thy brother shall rise again.

"Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.

"Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live.

"And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this?

"She saith unto Him,"

(And drawing a painful breath, Sonia read distinctly and forcibly as though she were making a public confession of faith.)

"Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God Which should come into the world."

She stopped and looked up quickly at him, but controlling herself went on reading. Raskolnikov sat without moving, his elbows on the table and his eyes turned away. She read to the thirty-second verse.

"Then when Mary was come where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

"When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled,

"And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.

"Jesus wept.

"Then said the Jews, behold how He loved him!

"And some of them said, could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?"

Raskolnikov turned and looked at her with emotion. Yes, he had known it! She was trembling in a real physical fever. He had expected it. She was getting near the story of the greatest miracle and a feeling of immense triumph came over her. Her voice rang out like a bell; triumph and joy gave it power. The lines danced before her eyes, but she knew what she was reading by heart. At the last verse "Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind..." dropping her voice she passionately reproduced the doubt, the reproach and censure of the blind disbelieving Jews, who in another moment would fall at His feet as though struck by thunder, sobbing and believing.... "And he, he—too, is blinded and unbelieving, he, too, will hear, he, too, will believe, yes, yes! At once, now," was what she was dreaming, and she was quivering with happy anticipation.

"Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

"Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days."

She laid emphasis on the word four.

"Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

"Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.

"And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.

"And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

"And he that was dead came forth."

(She read loudly, cold and trembling with ecstasy, as though she were seeing it before her eyes.)

"Bound hand and foot with graveclothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go.

"Then many of the Jews which came to Mary and had seen the things which Jesus did believed on Him."

She could read no more, closed the book and got up from her chair quickly.

"That is all about the raising of Lazarus," she whispered severely and abruptly, and turning away she stood motionless, not daring to raise her eyes to him. She still trembled feverishly. The candle-end was flickering out in the battered candlestick, dimly lighting up in the poverty-stricken room the murderer and the harlot who had so strangely been reading together the eternal book.

- Crime and Punishment, Part IV, Chapter IV

Friday, March 30, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - The Fortieth Day

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

- Gospel According to St. Matthew Ch. 6 (KJV)

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name' sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

- Psalm 23 (KJV) (LXX=22)

1 (22:1) ψαλμος τω δαυιδ κυριος ποιμαινει με και ουδεν με υστερησει 2 (22:2) εις τοπον χλοης εκει με κατεσκηνωσεν επι υδατος αναπαυσεως εξεθρεψεν με 3 (22:3) την ψυχην μου επεστρεψεν ωδηγησεν με επι τριβους δικαιοσυνης ενεκεν του ονοματος αυτου 4 (22:4) εαν γαρ και πορευθω εν μεσω σκιας θανατου ου φοβηθησομαι κακα οτι συ μετ εμου ει η ραβδος σου και η βακτηρια σου αυται με παρεκαλεσαν 5 (22:5) ητοιμασας ενωπιον μου τραπεζαν εξ εναντιας των θλιβοντων με ελιπανας εν ελαιω την κεφαλην μου και το ποτηριον σου μεθυσκον ως κρατιστον 6 (22:6) και το ελεος σου καταδιωξεται με πασας τας ημερας της ζωης μου και το κατοικειν με εν οικω κυριου εις μακροτητα ημερων


Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Deep Breath Before Holy Week - Fear of the Cross

On this 39th day of Lent, take a deep breath, and read this:



Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 39

1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth. 2 Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. 3 And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. 4 Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. 5 Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it , because there was no grass. 6 And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass. 7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name' sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. 8 O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night? 9 Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not. 10 Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. 11 Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. 12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. 13 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. 14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. 15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. 17 Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow. 18 If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not. 19 Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble! 20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. 21 Do not abhor us , for thy name' sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us. 22 Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

- Book of the Prophet Jeremiah Chapter 14 (KJV)


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 38

1 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. 4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man' lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. 5 And David' anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. 7 And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8 And I gave thee thy master' house, and thy master' wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14 Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah' wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17 And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19 But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself , and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21 Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. 24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

II Samuel Chapter 12


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 37

31 Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 32 Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. 33 And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. 34 Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. 35 And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. 36 Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat.

- Acts of the Apostles Chapter 27 (KJV)

31 ειπεν ο παυλος τω εκατονταρχη και τοις στρατιωταις εαν μη ουτοι μεινωσιν εν τω πλοιω υμεις σωθηναι ου δυνασθε 32 τοτε οι στρατιωται απεκοψαν τα σχοινια της σκαφης και ειασαν αυτην εκπεσειν 33 αχρι δε ου εμελλεν ημερα γινεσθαι παρεκαλει ο παυλος απαντας μεταλαβειν τροφης λεγων τεσσαρεσκαιδεκατην σημερον ημεραν προσδοκωντες ασιτοι διατελειτε μηδεν προσλαβομενοι 34 διο παρακαλω υμας προσλαβειν τροφης τουτο γαρ προς της υμετερας σωτηριας υπαρχει ουδενος γαρ υμων θριξ εκ της κεφαλης πεσειται 35 ειπων δε ταυτα και λαβων αρτον ευχαριστησεν τω θεω ενωπιον παντων και κλασας ηρξατο εσθιειν 36 ευθυμοι δε γενομενοι παντες και αυτοι προσελαβοντο τροφης

- same (Textus Receptus [1550])

Monday, March 26, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 36

I. Lent must be kept not only by avoiding bodily impurity but also by avoiding errors of thought and faith.

We know indeed, dearly-beloved, your devotion to be so warm that in the fasting, which is the forerunner of the Lord’s Easter, many of you will have forestalled our exhortations. But because the right practice of abstinence is needful not only to the mortification of the flesh but also to the purification of the mind, we desire your observance to be so complete that, as you cut down the pleasures that belong to the lusts of the flesh, so you should banish the errors that proceed from the imaginations of the heart. For he whose heart is polluted with no misbelief prepares himself with true and reasonable purification for the Paschal Feast, in which all the mysteries of our religion meet together. For, as the Apostle says, that “all that is not of faith is sin [Rom. xiv. 23]
,” the fasting of those will be unprofitable and vain, whom the father of lying deceives with his delusions, and who are not fed by Christ’s true flesh. As then we must with the whole heart obey the Divine commands and sound doctrine, so we must use all foresight in abstaining from wicked imaginations. For the mind then only keeps holy and spiritual fast when it rejects the food of error and the poison of falsehood, which our crafty and wily foe plies us with more treacherously now, when by the very return of the venerable Festival, the whole church generally is admonished to understand the mysteries of its salvation. For he is the true confessor and worshipper of Christ’s resurrection, who is not confused about His passion, nor deceived about His bodily nativity. For some are so ashamed of the Gospel of the Cross of Christ, as to impudently nullify the punishment which He underwent for the world’s redemption, and have denied the very nature of true flesh in the Lord, not understanding how the impassible and unchangeable Deity of God’s Word could have so far condescended for man’s salvation, as by His power not to lose His own properties, and in His mercy to take on Him ours. And so in Christ, there is a twofold form but one person, and the Son of God, who is at the same time Son of Man, is one Lord, accepting the condition of a slave by the design of loving-kindness, not by the law of necessity, because by His power He became humble, by His power passible, by His power mortal; that for the destruction of the tyranny of sin and death, the weak nature in Him might be capable of punishment, and the strong nature not lose aught of its glory.

II. All the actions of Christ reveal the presence of the twofold nature.

And so, dearly-beloved, when in reading or hearing the Gospel you find certain things in our Lord Jesus Christ subjected to injuries and certain things illumined by miracles, in such a way that in the same Person now the Humanity appears, and now the Divinity shines out, do not put down any of these things to a delusion, as if in Christ there is either Manhood alone or Godhead alone, but believe both faithfully, worship both right humbly; so that in the union of the Word and the Flesh there may be no separation, and the bodily proofs may not seem delusive, because the divine signs were evident in Jesus. The attestations to both natures in Him are true and abundant, and by the depth of the Divine purpose all concur to this end, that the inviolable Word not being separated from the passible flesh, the Godhead may be understood as in all things partaker with the flesh and flesh with the Godhead. And, therefore, must the Christian mind that would eschew lies and be the disciple of truth, use the Gospel-story confidently, and, as if still in company with the Apostles themselves, distinguish what is visibly done by the Lord, now by the spiritual understanding and now by the bodily organs of sight. Assign to the man that He is born a boy of a woman: assign to God that His mother’s virginity is not harmed, either by conception or by bearing. Recognize “the form of a slave” enwrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, but acknowledge that it was the Lord’s form that was announced by angels, “proclaimed by the elements,” adored by the wise men. Understand it of His humanity that he did not avoid the marriage feast: confess it Divine that he turned water into wine. Let your own feelings explain to you why He shed tears over a dead friend: let His Divine power be realized, when that same friend, after mouldering in the grave four days, is brought to life and raised only by the command of His voice. To make clay with spittle and earth was a work of the body: but to anoint therewith and enlighten the eyes of the blind is an undoubted mark of that power which had reserved for the revelation of its glory that which it had not allowed to the early part of His natural life. It is truly human to relieve bodily fatigue with rest in sleep: but it is truly Divine to quell the violence of raging storms by a rebuking command. To set food before the hungry denotes human kindness and a philanthropic spirit: but with five loaves and two fishes to satisfy 5,000 men, besides women and children, who would dare deny that to be the work of Deity? a Deity which, by the co-operation of the functions of true flesh, showed not only itself in Manhood, but also Manhood in itself; for the old, original wounds in man’s nature could not be healed, except by the Word of God taking to Himself flesh from the Virgin’s womb, whereby in one and the same Person flesh and the Word co-existed.

III. Hold fast to the statements of the Creed.

This belief in the Lord’s Incarnation, dearly-beloved, through which the whole Church is Christ’s body, hold firm with heart unshaken and abstain from all the lies of heretics, and remember that your works of mercy will only then profit you, and your strict continence only then bear fruit, when your minds are unsoiled by any defilement from wrong opinions. Cast away the arguments of this world’s wisdom, for God hates them, and none can arrive by them at the knowledge of the Truth, and keep fixed in your mind that which you say in the Creed. Believe
the Son of God to be co-eternal with the Father by Whom all things were made and without Whom nothing was made, born also according to the flesh at the end of the times. Believe Him to have been in the body crucified, dead, raised up, and lifted above the heights of heavenly powers, set on the Father’s right hand, about to come in the same flesh in which He ascended, to judge the living and the dead. For this is what the Apostle proclaims to all the faithful, saying: “if ye be risen with Christ seek the things which are above, where Christ is sitting on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ, our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory [Col. iii. 1–4].”

IV. Use Lent for general improvement in the whole round of Christian duties.

Relying, therefore, dearly-beloved, on so great a promise, be heavenly not only in hope, but also in conduct. And though our minds must at all times be set on holiness of mind and body, yet now during these 40 days of fasting bestir yourselves to yet more active works of piety, not only in the distribution of alms, which are very effectual in attesting reform, but also in forgiving offences, and in being merciful to those accused of wrongdoing, that the condition which God has laid down between Himself and us may not be against us when we pray. For when we say, in accordance with the Lord’s teaching, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors [Matt. vi. 12],” we ought with the whole heart to carry out what we say. For then only will what we ask in the next clause come to pass, that we be not led into temptation and freed from all evils through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

- Sermon of Pope St. Leo the Great, Patriarch of Rome, On Lent VIII, as taken from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series (footnotes and references omitted except for scriptural references in text)


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 35

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Feast of the Good News [Annunciation]

The Gospel According to St. Luke 1:24-38:

At that time, Elizabeth, the wife of Zachariah, conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, “Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.’ In the sixth month the archangel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin´s name was Mary. And the archangel came to her and said, “Rejoice, O favored one, the Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the archangel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou wilt conceive in thy womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Ja cob forever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the archangel, “How shall this be, since I have known no man?’ And the archangel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon thee, and the power of the Most High will overshadow thee; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.’ And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the archangel departed from her.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 34

Come, my dearly beloved; come my Fathers and Brothers, the flock chosen of God, soldiers of Christ sealed in your foreheads. Come, My sons, attend to this discourse designed to promote the salvation of your souls. Come and let us communicate while this solemn time and happy opportunity of communicating lasts. Come, let us lay hold of eternal life; come, let us purchase the salvation of our souls. Fill your eyes with tears, and the eyes of your mind will soon be opened. Come all, one with another, rich and poor, princes and subjects, young men and maidens, old men and children, every age and sex, who desire to be delivered from eternal torments and to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

With holy David let us beseech our merciful and most gracious Lord, saying, "Open Thou mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of Thy law. Lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." Let us cry as that blind man did, who sat by the wayside, "Thou Son of the Most High God, have mercy upon me!" And if any rebuke us, or charge us to hold our peace, let us cry the more, a great deal, and never be weary of crying, till Christ, the giver of lights, shall open the eyes of our hearts. Therefore draw near to Him and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed. Let us courageously take up just notions and ardent desires for the Kingdom of Heaven and the Paradise set before us, and all the things of this world will soon appear vile in our sight. Exert yourselves now, when it is the eleventh hour; make haste that you will not be shut out. For the evening is at hand, and He that is to distribute wages to all is coming with glory and great majesty to render to everyone according to his works.

My Brothers, let us repent and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance while we have time. Hear what Our Lord says, "There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repents!" Why then, O sinner, do you sit, stupid, listless, and negligent? Why are you disheartened and in despair? If there will be joy in heaven at your repentance, what are you afraid of? The angels are so affected as to feel an extraordinary joy on your account, and how can you remain inactive, unconcerned and unmoved? The King of Angels preaches repentance, and are there any fears which can discourage you? The Holy Undivided and Adorable Trinity invites you to repentance, and is a fruitless sigh or groan all the return you make to It?

Let not the pursuits and lusts of this world bewitch us with their sweetness here, lest hereafter we possess the bitterness of eternal fire, and of that worm which never dies. Let us mourn a little here, that we may not hereafter howl in everlasting torments.

Look well to it, and let nobody be negligent and careless in this matter, for the coming Christ shall be sudden as a dreadful flash of lightning! Does it strike no terror into you, that in that hour everyone shall receive in proportion to his merits, according to his works done in the body? Every man shall then bear his own burden, and everyone shall reap there whatsoever he has sown here. All must then stand naked and undisguised before the Judgement Seat of Christ, and every one of us must give an account of himself to the Judge. In that time and place, none can possibly receive any benefit or assistance from anyone else. One brother or friend shall not be able to help another, nor parents their children, nor children their parents, nor husbands their wives, but everyone shall then stand there with fear and trembling, awaiting the sentence which shall be pronounced by God.

Therefore, why do we lose the present opportunity by living in sloth and idleness, and not laboring to be ready and well provided for? Why are we not more careful, while we still have time, to prepare for making a good defense and acceptable apology at that Tribunal? Why do we so slight and despise the Holy Scriptures and the Words of Christ? Do we not think that His Words and those of the Holy Apostles and Prophets will condemn us in that day, at that tremendous trial, if we have not kept them and done as they commanded us? Hear what Our Lord says to His Disciples, "He that hears you, hears Me, and he that despises you, despises Me and My Father." And again He says in another place, "He that rejects Me, and does not receive My Words, has One that judges him. The Word I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the Last Day." But what Word is that which shall judge us in the last day? His Holy Gospel, and the other sacred writings of the Holy Prophets and Apostles. Therefore, my brothers, let us not despise those things which are written. Remember Who says, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away."

Come then, most dearly beloved, before that dreadful and terrible Day overtakes you. Let us cast ourselves upon the abyss of the mercies of God. For God Himself encourages and invites all, saying, "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you."

Here all are encouraged by the patient, the compassionate, the long-suffering Lover of souls, who would have all men be saved. He does not invite and call some particular persons only, but all. Come unto Me, says He, all, whether rich or poor; "And he that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out, and who is it that cometh to me? He that hath My Commandments and keepeth them; he that heareth My words and believeth on Him that sent Me." Blessed, undoubtedly, is he who hears His word and keeps it; but he is miserable who refuses to hear and obey. As it is written, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Repent, my brother, and then rid yourself of all fear. Do the works of repentance, O sinner, confiding in and looking to the infinite goodness and mercy of Christ, who says, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Repent therefore, that you may not be confounded at that dread Tribunal where thousands and ten thousands of Angels and Archangels shall wait with trembling; when the hidden things of darkness will be brought to light, and the books will be opened; when men shall be separated one from the other, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. That will undoubtedly be an hour of astonishing fear and horrible dread when the just and terrible Judge shall come to take vengeance for sin. Who will not tremble all over, and who will not be sore afraid at that hour? For the Judge will be unerring and mighty, and the judgement will be severe and inexorable and our words shall be set in order before our eyes. A river of fire shall issue from before Him. On one side shall be heard the incessant hymns of Angels and Saints, and on the other the insupportable wailings and fruitless lamentation of sinners. Then also shall the treasures be opened, and the just receive the reward of their good works and enjoy eternal rest.

And blessed are they who have hungered and thirsted here on earth, because there they shall be filled. But woe to those who have been full here, for there they shall hunger and thirst. And blessed are they who have wept and mourned here, because there they shall laugh and be comforted. But woe to those who laugh now, for there they shall mourn and weep without intermission. And blessed are they who have been merciful here, for there they shall obtain mercy. But woe to those who have here shut up their hearts to pity and compassion for their neighbor, for there they, in their turn, shall have no mercy shown to them.

You have heard how those are pronounced blessed who have on earth striven lawfully and fought the good fight, and how on the contrary, those are declared miserable and wretched who are careless and negligent. Most dearly beloved, consider all these things and weigh them well in your mind, and make all haste, and use all diligence to be saved; and do not regard those who here continually indulge themselves in ease and pleasures, for they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and whither, even as the green herb.

Love not this present world, for it beguiles and ruins those who love it by delighting them for awhile, and then it sends them poor and naked into an eternal state. Listen and attend to the Holy Scriptures, and you will not be imposed upon and deceived by this vain and wicked world. Hear what St. John the Theologian says, "Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of that Father, but it is of the world. And the world passes away and the lusts thereof, but he that does the will of God abides forever." Hear what the Lord Himself says, "What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Consider His Words with fear and diligent attention, because, as you have heard, the Word which He spoke and taught is the same that shall judge us at that Last Day. Is our Lord a liar? God forbid, for He is the Truth itself, and if you are truly persuaded and know certainly that He is the Truth and that in His Words there is no falsehood at all, how, wretched man, can you thus slight them, and go on in this careless manner? What do you wait for? What are your thoughts taken up with? Who will make your defense for you? Do you not know that everyone must give an account to God for himself? Do you not know that everyone shall reap what he has sown, and that everyone shall bear his own burden? Think while you still have time, unbind and shake off the burden of your sins. God, the lover of souls, invites you to this, saying, "Come unto Me, all you that are heavy laden." See, He invites all. Let none refuse or despair; let none dare to say, "I have not sinned." He that says he has not sinned is blind and cannot see far off and is miserable beyond all men. For St. John says, "If we say that we have no sin, we lie, and do not the truth, and we deceive ourselves and make God a liar, for no man is clean from pollution." And this is the base of our duty to mourn and weep; it is necessary to wash away the filth and guilt of our sins. We should, therefore, sing with the Holy Prophet David "Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." And again, "Every night wash I my bed and water my couch with my tears." He sinned one night, and wept every night, and thereby obtained blessedness. For being a prophet he had a perfect foresight, and some portion of the Spirit of Him who says, "Blessed are they that mourn."

Therefore, mourn for none of the transitory things of this world. Set not your heart upon the delights of the present life, nor covet worldly riches. Take a dislike to soft, effeminate, gaudy dressings, and all the tokens and effects of luxury. Hate the several sorts of paint, dyes for the hair, beautifying preparations, those ornaments that serve only for pride and vanity, harps and pipes and theatrical clappings of the hands, and disorderly and indecent clamours. Avoid such songs as they use in the worship of devils, and which serve the devil's purposes to corrupt mankind. Do you not know, wretched man, that all these things are the seed of the Devil? All these things the gentiles use, who have no hope of salvation. Let us not therefore be like the gentiles, lest we be condemned with them. Hear this solemn declaration of the Apostle, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that from now on you walk, not as other gentiles walk in the vanity of your mind, having the understanding darkened. Let us therefore forsake the works of the gentiles and not return back to what is behind us, nor do the same things again."

You have once renounced Satan and his angels, and have entered into covenant with Christ before many witnesses. Consider Who it was you engaged with in that covenant, and by no means make light of Him or it. Moreover be assured of this, that the Angels at that time recorded your words, your covenant, and the renunciation you made; and this record they laid up in Heaven against that dreadful Day of Judgement. Does not this thought make you afraid? Do you not tremble at it? In the Day of Judgement, the Angels shall produce your bond and the words of your mouth, before that formidable bar, where even the Angels themselves shall stand with trembling. Then must you hear those cutting words, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant." Then you will lament indeed, and weep bitterly in that hour, but then it will do you no good.

Therefore, have pity on yourself now, and do not hate your own soul. Open your eyes and see in what way great number fight the good fight. See how they labor with all earnestness to be saved, and how they force themselves to every good work. How carefully they guard themselves from all envy, from evil speaking, from malice and hatred, from immodest mirth, from fornication, from luxury, from fightings and quarrelings. The have chosen the straight and rough way, fasting, watching, suffering afflictions and adversities, mourning and seeping. They have trimmed their lamps and made them shine. See how their mouth at all times sings hymns and praises to their immortal Bridegroom. Their eyes are continually fixed upon His beauties, and their souls rejoice and triumph in Him.

Consider and see: He is at hand, and will not tarry. He shall come to rejoice the hearts of those that love Him. He shall come to comfort those who here mourn and weep, not for their dead friends, or loss of temporal goods, but for the evil of sin cleaving to them, and the loss of that Kingdom of which there shall be no end, and of those blessed delights of Paradise from whence we were cast out by transgressing the Commandment of God; whither those return again, who here mourn and weep. He shall come to crown those who have here striven lawfully, and have loved the narrow and rough way. He shall come to have mercy on the merciful. He shall come to make those rich and happy who have suffered poverty for His sake. He shall come to fill those with good things, who for His sake have hungered and thirsted. He shall come to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of all hearts. In a word, He shall come to render to everyone according to his works. He shall come, but no more in a state of humiliation from the earth as before, but from the heavens, with power and great glory. Then shall the trumpets sound from Heaven, and the powers thereof shall be shaken. The whole earth shall tremble before the presence of His Glory, as the waters of the sea before the wind. A river of fire shall flow before Him to purge the earth from iniquities. Then shall there be a sudden cry, behold, the Bridegroom cometh; behold, now the long expected Joy cometh; behold now, the glory and triumph of the righteous, the Sun of Righteousness cometh; behold, the King of kings cometh, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end; behold, the righteous Judge cometh; lo, He cometh, go ye out to meet Him. Then shall they go forth with joy, who have their lamps burning, and their garments unspotted and shining. They shall hear the voice of the Bridegroom, saying to them, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

Upon the hearing of this cry, I say, they who have their lamps burning shall from all parts of the world go out to meet Him cheerfully and joyfully with much confidence and good hope, because their lamps are not gone out. Then you, (every impenitent and careless soul) shall find yourself in huge distress and anguish under a most dreadful calamity and insupportable necessity. And feeling your lamp gone out, shall say, with the utmost shame and confusion, "My brothers, lend me a little oil, for my lamp is gone out." And they shall answer and say, "Not so, lest there would not be enough for us and you; but go rather to them that sell, and buy for yourself." Then you shall go away with great afflictions, sorrow and lamentation, bitterly weeping and groaning because you can find no place to buy oil, for now the market is over, the time of life, which is the only opportunity for this traffic, is past and gone, and every living soul shall shake and tremble as the waters of the sea. Even the poor, who used to sit at the church doors and sell oil, are gone away too. Then, not knowing what in the world to do, and pressed on every side with anxiety and dismay, you will say, "I will go and knock at the door of the mercies of Christ my Lord; who knows but that He may open to me?"

Then you go and knock, and the Bridegroom answers from within, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Depart from Me, you worker of iniquity. You have showed no mercy to others; therefore you shall now find no mercy from Me. You would not hear the cry of the poor, neither will I now hear your cry. You heard My Holy Scriptures, and laughed at them; and therefore I will not allow you to enter here. You received not My Prophets and Apostles, and therefore the Word which they spoke shall condemn you in this last day. Depart from me, for the strait gate cannot admit you. You have fed your flesh, but you have killed your soul. Why then would you enter here, and defile my Kingdom? You have defiled the garment of your flesh. You have filled your mouth with arguing and evil speaking. You have hated your neighbor. You have fulfilled the will of the Devil, but My will you have rejected. And now do you beg to enter here, where you have sent nothing before you? Where you have no treasure laid up, neither tears, nor mourning, nor fastings, nor watchings, nor regular singing of Psalms and Hymns to God, nor chastity, nor patience, nor alms; having sent none of these treasures hither before you, what would you have here? This is the habitation where those dwell who have embraced poverty for My sake. This is the kingdom of the merciful. This is the consolation of those who have mourned in the world. This is the joy of those who have repented of their sins, and bewailed them. This is the rest of those who have watched and fasted. This is the life of the true widows and orphans. Here, they who in the world have hungered and thirsted, rejoice and triumph to Eternity. But you, in your life. Have already received your good things; depart from Me into everlasting fire."
Upon hearing these words, you shall stand astonished with shame and confusion. And as you so stand there, you shall hear from within the voice of joy, thanksgiving and triumph. You shall be able to distinguish the voices of every one of the companions and friends and then you will bitterly lament and say, O miserable and wretched man that I am, how have I been deprived of this Glory, and separated from my companions and friends by my abominable and witched works? I cannot but confess that the Judgement of God is righteous. Undoubtedly I suffer most justly, for they lived in the greatest temperance and abstinence, but I pursued a course of feasting and reveling. They sang the praises of God, but I was silent. They prayed with fervor and attention, but my vain and light mind wandered after unimportant trifles. They humbled themselves but I was proud and insolent. They despised themselves, but I set myself up, and boasted of myself and my performances. They wept, but I laughed. Therefore they rejoice and triumph now, but I mourn and lament. They right with Christ for ever and ever, but I am condemned to everlasting fire with Antichrist! Alas! Wretch that I am, what a calamity is befallen me! What immensely good things have I lost, only that I might for a little time fulfill the will of the Devil! Now I understand fully that everyone receives according to that which he has done, whether it be good or bad. Now I am sensible that I have been cheated and ruined by a most vain world. Of what unspeakable blessedness have I deprived myself! What misery and confusion have I pulled upon my own head!

These things are more to the same purpose shall you speak with bitter lamentations, but you do yourself no manner of good by it, for there repentance is too Late, and avails nothing. For this reason it is that the Holy Scriptures of the Apostles and Prophets testify that eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered in to the heart of a sinful man the good things which God has prepared for them that love him.

Again, you have heard Our Lord say, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Rather fear him who is able to kill both soul and body in Hell." And in another place He says, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for my sake." For the same reason the Apostle says, "Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to the flesh, shall reap of the flesh corruption, but he that sows to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. For they that her sow in tears, there shall reap in joy!" Therefore, my brothers, attend to and remember those things that are written. The sower went out to sow his seed. Who was it that went out and sowed? The good Householder, Our Lord Jesus Christ. But what did He sow? The Word of His Gospel, and His Holy Precepts. But where did He sow, and upon what ground? In the hearts of men, even to all the ends of the earth. But all do not obey the Gospel, neither do all break up their fallow ground that when the seed of the Lord has fallen upon them it may bring forth fruit. But being uncultivated, stony or thorny ground, they receive the Word indeed, but go and allow themselves to be beguiled and choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of this world, and bring no fruit to perfection. Therefore, do you, beloved, rectify and prepare your hearts for the reception of the Gospel, and then excessive carefulness for the things of this world shall not choke your souls. Let us run or labor for necessities, not for delicacy or luxury. If you seek for and will be content with only what is sufficient, you will have rest, and will not need to labor overmuch. But if you will gratify your luxury and greed, the consequence must be abundance of toil, the rendering your Christian course dangerous by temptations and snares and hurtful lusts--a life of boundless sorrows and innumerable cares and anxieties.

My brothers, Our Lord assures us that one thing is needful, but yet it is necessary that some of our care and labor should be given to the things of this life in a reasonable measure and at proper times to supply the necessities of the body. But our spiritual interests are to be pursued, with incessant zeal and diligence in order to secure the salvation of our souls; for nothing is more precious and excellent than the soul. Therefore, my brothers, let us work for our souls; let these employ our pains and study, and vigorous application every day. Let us not spend all our time in the care of the body, but whenever the body is hungry and desires nourishment, think at the same time that your soul requires its necessary and proper provision. And as the body, without taking food, cannot live, so likewise the soul must certainly die unless nourished with spiritual wisdom. Man is made up of two parts, a soul and a body, upon which account Our Saviour said, "Man shall not live by bread alone." Do you therefore, as a good steward, give to your soul food proper for your soul, and to your body food proper for your body. Do not feed your body only, and leave your soul desolate and starving. Be sure you do not allow your souls to be destroyed by famine, but feed and nourish it with the word of God, with Psalms and Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, by frequent reading of the Holy Scriptures, with fastings, with watchings, with prayers, with tears, with the hope of and meditation upon the good things to come. These and such things as these, are the nourishment and life of the soul.

Take heed, my brothers, that none of you be found unfruitful; for he who in his flesh sows the enjoyments of the world, luxury, feastings and entertainments, shall from the flesh reap corruption. But he who in his spirit sows prayers and fastings and watchings, shall from the spirit reap life everlasting. Consider and see that no one can praise those who live in pleasure, who are vain and insolent, and distracted with the impertinent trifles and the immodest mirth of the world, for these things gentiles do. But this is our Law, and the spirit of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are they that mourn; blessed are the merciful; blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake; blessed are they who are reviled and evil spoken of for the sake of Christ; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are they who practice abstinence and continence; blessed are they who have kept their baptism undefiled, blessed are they who have renounced this world for Christ, blessed are they who live in virginity, blessed are they who having wives, are as though they had none, blessed are those who watch and pray, blessed are they who look for Him that is coming to judge the quick and the dead, blessed are they who pour out their supplications with tears. This is the sense of the Holy Scriptures, these are maxims of true believers.

But I ask you, what Scripture promises blessedness to those who revel with pipes and harps; who indulge themselves in pleasure, in luxury and drunkenness and dancings; who love the world and the things that are in the world? These our Law does not advise; these things Our Lord has not taught. On the contrary He has declared that they shall be attended with misery and woe, saying "Woe unto those that laugh now, for they shall mourn and weep! Woe unto you that are full for you shall hunger. Woe unto you that are rich." And again He says, by the Prophet, "Woe unto them that call evil good and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. Woe unto them that justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him. Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning that they may swallow strong drink, that continue until night, until wine inflames them. The harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine are in their feasts, but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands. These and the like are the practice of the lovers of the world, and the lovers of the flesh, but not of those who love and are beloved by Christ.

Now you will hear a few of the sentiments of the friends of Christ, those who walk in the narrow way. Listen to these expressions of the Apostle. In all things approving ourselves as the ministers (servants) of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distress, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults or tossings to and fro, in labors, in watchings and fastings, and so on. And again Our Lord says, "Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." Why then, dearest brothers, do you not pay the obedience you owe to this command? Lo, you have heard that they are declared to be blessed, who walk in the narrow way, and how woes are pronounced against those who take the broad and spacious way. Come then, and leave the broad way that leads to destruction. Let us labor a little while, that we may reign to endless ages. Having always before our eyes Him that is coming to judge the quick and the dead, and meditating continually upon that eternal life, and that immortal Kingdom where we shall dwell with choirs of Angels, and converse with Christ Himself.

Consider well, and keep it continually in mind that this life has nothing in it but tears, misrepresentations, mockings and reproaches, laziness and negligence, labors and cares, diseases, old age, sins, and death, and love not this world. Let not this world get possession of your heart and place not your delight in it. Let it not beguile and supplant you, and send you away naked into tat other world. Remember Who says, "Pray without ceasing." Be not too much taken with the gaieties of life, nor trust in the bloom in flower of your age. Let the praises of God be perpetually in your mouth, for when God is named, He puts to flight the evil spirits. And if you set your hand to any work, let your tongue sing Psalms, and your spirit pray. Our Lord Himself, in His Own Person, teaches and exhorts us immediately to prepare ourselves, and if any of us have sinned and fallen, let us apply a remedy by our tears, while we have time for repentance. The time for penitential exercises is very short, but the Kingdom of Heaven has no end.

We do well to admire the blessedness of the saints and desire to be crowned as they are, but we are unwilling to imitate their labors and combats. Do you think that they were drowned without labors and afflictions in the same manner as you desire to be? Will you hear what kind of rest the saints had in this life? Some of them were tortured, others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yes, even more of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted and tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. Lo, you have heard a few particulars out of many. Such were the accommodations and repose of the saints in this life; and they bore these things with all joy because they looked for those eternal good things which are laid up for them in the heavens, which eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into to heart of man.

If you desire to escape eternal torments never speak evil of, nor rail at, nor abuse anyone. Woe to the ungodly and unrighteous man, for when all are enlightened he is reserved for the blackness of darkness. Woe to the blasphemer, for his tongue is bound, and unable to make any apology before the Judge. Woe to the greedy rich man, for his riches fly away, and his portion shall be in eternal fire. Woe to the lazy and negligent, for he shall seek for that time which he has wickedly misspent, but with all his seeking shall never recover it. Woe to the whoremonger, because he defiles his wedding garment, and shall, with shame and infamy, be cast out from the marriage feast of the Great King. Woe to the scurrilous detractor, and together with him, to the drunkard, for they shall have their portion with the murderers, and be tormented with the adulterers. Woe to him that spends this short life in luxury and pleasure, for he shall be sought out and dragged like a fatted calf to the slaughter. Woe to the hypocrite, for the Shepherd shall deny him, and the wolf shall seize and devour him.

But blessed is he that travels on in the narrow way, for he shall be crowned, and bearing his crown, ascend into Heaven. Blessed is he who lives an exalted life, and yet entertains humble thoughts of himself, for he imitates Christ, and shall sit down with Him. Blessed is he who has been bountiful to many poor men, for he shall find many patrons when he comes to be judged. Blessed is he that does violence to his own desires in everything, for the violent take the Kingdom of Heaven by force.

Therefore, my brothers, let us force ourselves to every good work. Let us continually admonish and exhort and encourage one another, and edify one another, even as also you do. Let your discourse be about the Judgement and the account you must give, and how you may make the best defense. Whether you are doing any work, or walking by the way, or sitting at your meals, or lying upon your beds, or whatever else you are about, seriously meditate upon the judgement and the glorious coming of the righteous Judge; and let the thoughts and study of your hearts and your discourses with one another be on such questions as these: What is the nature of that outer darkness? What are the properties of that fire which is not quenched and that worm which sleepeth not? What kind of torment is gnashing of the teeth? Talk with one another about these things perpetually, night and day. Which way will that river of fire run, which shall issue from before Him, and purge the earth from the iniquities of them that dwell in it? How shall the heavens be rolled together as a scroll? How shall the stars fall as leaves form a fig tree? How shall the sun be darkened and the moon cease to give her light? How shall the heavens be rent asunder at the commandment of the Lord? How shall the Judge descend from Heaven with lightning and thunder? How shall the powers of Heaven be shaken and run before Him? In what manner shall the dreadful and terrible tribunal be made ready? How exceedingly shall the footstool of it quake at the approach of the Judge, to set His foot upon it? How shall the trumpet sound? How shall the tombs be thrown open? How shall the graves be ransacked? How shall all that have ever died from the beginning of the world be raised again, as if were from sleep? How shall the souls of men fly to their own proper bodies? How shall the saints run to meet their Lord? How shall they who are read be permitted to enter with Him? How shall the bride-chamber be shut against the negligent and careless?

To meditate on these things is good and profitable; to be careful and felicitous about these things, night and day, is absolutely necessary. He that is always mindful of death shall, scarce ever do amiss. Let not the whole time of our life be spent in laboring to provide meat and drink and clothes; thus the gentiles do, who have not the hope of life eternal. Let us not therefore be like them, but let us listen to those words of Our Lord, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Let us seek, my brothers, that kingdom of which there shall be no end. Let us seek that joy which shall continue for a boundless eternity. Let us pray, my beloved, with earnest attention and sorrow of heart, with sighs and groans and tears lest we fail of that glorious call, "Come ye blessed!" Away with the luxury and delights of this world, that in the other world we may gain the delights of paradise. Let us weep a little here that we may laugh there. Here let us hunger, that there we may be satisfied. Here let us enter in at the strait gate, and choose the narrow way, that there we may walk at liberty, and our feet be set in a large place. And again I repeat it: See that this life does not supplant you, and beguile and abuse you, and send you naked and miserable into that other life, for the deceitfulness of this world has supplanted many, has beguiled and abused many, has blinded many. But let us, my brothers, take heed to ourselves. Let us obey this call of Our Lord, "Come ye all after me!" Let us leave all and follow Him alone! Let us despise all the joy of this world, for it mocks all those that are fond of it. But let us make all haste, and use all diligence to lay hold on eternal life, to be admitted among the Choirs of Angels, and to abide forever with Christ. To Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be Glory and Power throughout all ages. Amen.

- Saint Ephrem the Syrian


Friday, March 23, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 33

I am sorry I've missed a couple of posting days . . . day 30 and day 32. Rather than fill them in belatedly, I will simply ask any reader who passes by to forgive me and invite them to pick up the past Orthodox Word podcasts or texts from the site.


1 Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had abode two days in Ziklag;

2 Now it came even to pass on the third day, that, behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head: and [so] it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the earth, and did obeisance.

3 And David said unto him, From whence comest thou? And he said unto him, Out of the camp of Israel am I escaped.

4 And David said unto him, How went the matter? I pray thee, tell me. And he answered, That the people are fled from the battle, and many of the people also are fallen and dead; and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.

5 And David said unto the young man that told him, How knowest thou that Saul and Jonathan his son be dead?

6 And the young man that told him said, As I happened by chance upon mount Gilboa, behold, Saul leaned upon his spear; and, lo, the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him.

7 And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called unto me. And I answered, Here [am] I.
8 And he said unto me, Who [art] thou? And I answered him, I [am] an Amalekite.

9 He said unto me again, Stand, I pray thee, upon me, and slay me: for anguish is come upon me, because my life [is] yet whole in me.

10 So I stood upon him, and slew him, because I was sure that he could not live after that he was fallen: and I took the crown that [was] upon his head, and the bracelet that [was] on his arm, and have brought them hither unto my lord.

11 Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that [were] with him:

12 And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.


The story of David and Saul is one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament Scriptures insofar as Saul appears in many respects as a tragic figure and David as one as well, although peculiarly blessed of the Lord. Both Saul and David are also portrayed not as some mythical warrior kings, but as very human, sometimes anxious, sometimes vindictive, and sometimes penitent kings. There is something greatly reassuring and truthful in the picture we see of these two kings.

The lament here for the fallen seems particularly appropriate in light of the House vote on Iraq - while I have strong opinions about the unwisdom of making war strategy via Congressional budget processes and the signal this sends to the Gulf, it is the Constitutional perogative of the House to deal with appropriations for military budgets. Now that we perhaps are seeing the ending days of major U.S. involvement in Iraq for season, let us take some time in our Lenten fast to mourn the slain and pray for those who even now desire the simple things of being able to go to school or the marketplace without fear of falling victim to the madness of suicide bombers or indiscriminate gunmen.

Lord have mercy!


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 31

3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. 4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. 5 And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. 6 And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. 7 And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it , they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him.

- Book of I Samuel Chapter 7


Monday, March 19, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 29

I. The Lenten fast an opportunity for restoring our purity.

In proposing to preach this most holy and important fast to you, dearly beloved, how shall I begin more fitly than by quoting the words of the Apostle, in whom Christ Himself was speaking, and by reminding you of what we have read: “behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.” For though there are no seasons which are not full of Divine blessings, and though access is ever open to us to God’s mercy through His grace, yet now all men’s minds should be moved with greater zeal to spiritual progress, and animated by larger confidence, when the return of the day, on which we were redeemed, invites us to all the duties of godliness: that we may keep the super-excellent mystery of the Lord’s passion with bodies and hearts purified. These great mysteries do indeed require from us such unflagging devotion and unwearied reverence that we should remain in God’s sight always the same, as we ought to be found on the Easter feast itself. But because few have this constancy, and, because so long as the stricter observance is relaxed in consideration of the frailty of the flesh, and so long as one’s interests extend over all the various actions of this life, even pious hearts must get some soils from the dust of the world, the Divine Providence has with great beneficence taken care that the discipline of the forty days should heal us and restore the purity of our minds, during which the faults of other times might be redeemed by pious acts and removed by chaste fasting.

II. Lent must be used for removing all our defilements, and of good works there must be no stint.

As we are therefore, dearly-beloved, about to enter on those mystic days which are dedicated to the benefits of fasting, let us take care to obey the Apostle’s precepts, cleansing “ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit [2 Cor. vii. 1.] :” that by controlling the struggles that go on between our two natures, the spirit which, if it is under the guidance of God, should be the governor of the body, may uphold the dignity of its rule: so that we may give no offence to any, nor be subject to the chidings of reprovers. For we shall be rightly attacked with rebukes, and through our fault ungodly tongues will arm themselves to do harm to religion, if the conduct of those that fast is at variance with the standard of perfect purity. For our fast does not consist chiefly of mere abstinence from food, nor are dainties withdrawn from our bodily appetites with profit, unless the mind is recalled from wrong-doing and the tongue restrained from slandering. This is a time of gentleness and long-suffering, of peace and tranquillity: when all the pollutions of vice are to be eradicated and continuance of virtue is to be attained by us. Now let godly minds boldly accustom themselves to forgive faults, to pass over insults, and to forget wrongs. Now let the faithful spirit train himself with the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, that through honour and dishonour, through ill repute and good repute, the conscience may be undisturbed in unwavering uprightness, not puffed up by praise and not wearied out by revilings. The self-restraint of the religious should not be gloomy, but sincere; no murmurs of complaint should be heard from those who are never without the consolation of holy joys. The decrease of worldly means should not be feared in the practice of works of mercy. Christian poverty is always rich, because what it has is more than what it has not. Nor does the poor man fear to labour in this world, to whom it is given to possess all things in the Lord of all things. Therefore those who do the things which are good must have no manner of fear lest the power of doing should fail them; since in the gospel the widow’s devotion is extolled in the case of her two mites, and voluntary bounty gets its reward for a cup of cold water [St. Luke xxi. 2–4, and St. Matt. x. 42] . For the measure of our charitableness is fixed by the sincerity of our feelings, and he that shows mercy on others will never want for mercy himself. The holy widow of Sarepta discovered this, who offered the blessed Elias in the time of famine one day’s food, which was all she had, and putting the prophet’s hunger before her own needs, ungrudgingly gave up a handful of corn and a little oil [Cf. 1 Kings xvii. 11 and ff.]. But she did not lose what she gave in all faith, and in the vessels emptied by her godly bounty a source of new plenty arose, that the fulness of her substance might not be diminished by the holy purpose to which she had put it, because she had never dreaded being brought to want.

III. As with the Saviour, so with us, the devil tries to make our very piety its own snare.

But, dearly-beloved, doubt not that the devil, who is the opponent of all virtues, is jealous of these good desires, to which we are confident you are prompted of your own selves, and that to this end he is arming the force of his malice in order to make your very piety its own snare, and endeavouring to overcome by boastfulness those whom he could not defeat by distrustfulness. For the vice of pride is a near neighbour to good deeds, and arrogance ever lies in wait hard by virtue: because it is hard for him that lives praise-worthily not to be caught by man’s praise unless, as it is written, “he that glorieth, glorieth in the Lord [1 Cor. x. 17].” Whose intentions would that most naughty enemy not dare to attack? whose fasting would he not seek to break down? seeing that, as has been shown in the reading of the Gospel, he did not restrain his wiles even against the Saviour of the world Himself. For being exceedingly afraid of His fast, which lasted 40 days and nights, he wished most cunningly to discover whether this power of abstinence was given Him or His very own: for he need not fear the defeat of all his treacherous designs, if Christ were throughout subject to the same conditions as He is in body. And so he first craftily examined whether He were Himself the Creator of all things, such that He could change the natures of material things as He pleased: secondly, whether under the form of human flesh the Godhead lay concealed, to Whom it was easy to make the air His chariot, and convey His earthly limbs through space. But when the Lord preferred to resist him by the uprightness of His true Manhood, than to display the power of His Godhead, to this he turns the craftiness of his third design, that he might tempt by the lust of empire Him in Whom the signs of Divine power had failed, and entice Him to the worship of himself by promising the kingdoms of the world. But the devil’s cleverness was rendered foolish by God’s wisdom, so that the proud foe was bound by that which he had formerly bound, and did not fear to assail Him Whom it behoved to be slain for the world.

IV. The perverse turn even their fasting into sin.

This adversary’s wiles then let us beware of, not only in the enticements of the palate, but also in our purpose of abstinence. For he who knew how to bring death upon mankind by means of food, knows also how to harm us through our very fasting, and using the Manichæans as his tools, as he once drove men to take what was forbidden, so in the opposite direction he prompts them to avoid what is allowed. It is indeed a helpful observance, which accustoms one to scanty diet, and checks the appetite for dainties: but woe to the dogmatizing of those whose very fasting is turned to sin. For they condemn the creature’s nature to the Creator’s injury, and maintain that they are defiled by eating those things of which they contend the devil, not God, is the author: although absolutely nothing that exists is evil, nor is anything in nature included in the actually bad. For the good Creator made all things good and the Maker of the universe is one, “Who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them [Ps. cxlvi. 6. .]” Of which whatever is granted to man for food and drink, is holy and clean after its kind. But if it is taken with immoderate greed, it is the excess that disgraces the eaters and drinkers, not the nature of the food or drink that defiles them. “For all things,” as the Apostle says, “are clean to the clean. But to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean, but their mind and conscience is defiled [Titus i. 15].”

V. Be reasonable and seasonable in your fasting.
But ye, dearly-beloved, the holy offspring of the catholic Mother, who have been taught in the school of Truth by God’s Spirit, moderate your liberty with due reasonableness, knowing that it is good to abstain even from things lawful, and at seasons of greater strictness to distinguish one food from another with a view to giving up the use of some kinds, not to condemning their nature. And so be not infected with the error of those who are corrupted merely by their own ordinances, “serving the creature rather than the Creator [Rom. ix. 26 ,” and offering a foolish abstinence to the service of the lights of heaven: seeing that they have chosen to fast on the first and second days of the week in honour of the sun and moon, proving themselves in this one instance of their perverseness twice disloyal to God, twice blasphemous, by setting up their fast not only in worship of the stars but also in contempt of the Lord’s Resurrection. For they reject the mystery of man’s salvation and refuse to believe that Christ our Lord in the true flesh of our nature was truly born, truly suffered, was truly buried and was truly raised. And in consequence, condemn the day of our rejoicing by the gloom of their fasting. And since to conceal their infidelity they dare to be present at our meetings, at the Communion of the Mysteries they bring themselves sometimes, in order to ensure their concealment, to receive Christ’s Body with unworthy lips, though they altogether refuse to drink the Blood of our Redemption. And this we make known to you, holy brethren, that men of this sort may be detected by you by these signs, and that they whose impious pretences have been discovered may be driven from the society of the saints by priestly authority. For of such the blessed Apostle Paul in his foresight warns God’s Church, saying: “but we beseech you, brethren, that ye observe those who make discussions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye learnt and turn away from them. For such persons serve not Christ the Lord but their own belly, and by sweet words and fair speeches beguile the hearts of the innocent [Rom. xvi. 17-18].”

VI. Make your fasting a reality by amendment in your lives.

Being therefore, dearly-beloved, fully instructed by these admonitions of ours, which we have often repeated in your ears in protest against abominable error, enter upon the holy days of Lent with Godly devoutness, and prepare yourselves to win God’s mercy by your own works of mercy. Quench your anger, wipe out enmities, cherish unity, and vie with one another in the offices of true humility. Rule your slaves and those who are put under you with fairness, let none of them be tortured by imprisonment or chains. Forego vengeance, forgive offences: exchange severity for gentleness, indignation for meekness, discord for peace. Let all men find us self-restrained, peaceable, kind: that our fastings may be acceptable to God. For in a word to Him we offer the sacrifice of true abstinence and true Godliness, when we keep ourselves from all evil: the Almighty God helping us through all, to Whom with the Son and Holy Spirit belongs one Godhead and one Majesty, for ever and ever. Amen.

- Pope St. Leo the Great, Patriarch of Rome, IV Sermon on Lent, as translated in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series (Schaff)


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 28

Today we commemorate St. John Climacus, who brought us the work 'The Ladder of Divine Ascent' - an ascetical treatise.

We also commemorate St. Kyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (c. 350 A.D.), who, as a priest, delivered his lectures to Catechumens which constitute one of the most ancient systematic treatises on the preparation of those to be baptised and, because of its position immediately post-Nicea and just prior to the closing of the New Testament canon, in my opinion it is invaluable in demonstrating the basic Orthodox faith of the Church that concluded the New Testament canon and gives us a firm foundation for the life in Christ as a member of the ekklesia. You can read this work online by the good graces of I believe St. Vladimir's Seminary Press has also published a portion of these lectures in English under the title "On the Sacraments" or some such.

Again, I commend you to the Orthodox Word podcast via the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website for the Gospel reading for this Sunday in lieu of my posting it here during my time away.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 27

Since I am away, for today please visit the Orthodox Word Podcast for the latest Lenten readings of the day according to the Greek lectionary.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 26

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. 22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.

- Book of Ezra Chapter 8 (KJV)


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 25

1 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
And sound an alarm in My holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble;
For the day of the Lord is coming,
For it is at hand:
2 A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
Like the morning clouds spread over the mountains.
A people come, great and strong,
The like of whom has never been;
Nor will there ever be any such after them,
Even for many successive generations.

3 A fire devours before them,
And behind them a flame burns;
The land is like the Garden of Eden before them,
And behind them a desolate wilderness;
Surely nothing shall escape them.
4 Their appearance is like the appearance of horses;
And like swift steeds, so they run.
5 With a noise like chariots
Over mountaintops they leap,
Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble,
Like a strong people set in battle array.

6 Before them the people writhe in pain;
All faces are drained of color.
7 They run like mighty men,
They climb the wall like men of war;
Every one marches in formation,
And they do not break ranks.
8 They do not push one another;
Every one marches in his own column.
Though they lunge between the weapons,
They are not cut down.
9 They run to and fro in the city,
They run on the wall;
They climb into the houses,
They enter at the windows like a thief.

10 The earth quakes before them,
The heavens tremble;
The sun and moon grow dark,
And the stars diminish their brightness.
11 The Lord gives voice before His army,
For His camp is very great;
For strong is the One who executes His word.
For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible;
Who can endure it?

A Call to Repentance
12 "Now, therefore," says the Lord,
"Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."
13 So rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm.
14 Who knows if He will turn and relent,
And leave a blessing behind Him--
A grain offering and a drink offering
For the Lord your God?

15 Blow the trumpet in Zion,
Consecrate a fast,
Call a sacred assembly;
16 Gather the people,
Sanctify the congregation,
Assemble the elders,
Gather the children and nursing babes;
Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber,
And the bride from her dressing room.
17 Let the priests, who minister to the Lord,
Weep between the porch and the altar;
Let them say, "Spare Your people, O Lord,
And do not give Your heritage to reproach,
That the nations should rule over them.
Why should they say among the peoples,
'Where is their God?'"

18 Then the Lord will be zealous for His land,
And pity His people.
19 The Lord will answer and say to His people,
"Behold, I will send you grain and new wine and oil,
And you will be satisfied by them;
I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations.

20 "But I will remove far from you the northern army,
And will drive him away into a barren and desolate land,
With his face toward the eastern sea
And his back toward the western sea;
His stench will come up,
And his foul odor will rise,
Because he has done monstrous things."

21 Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvelous things!
22 Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,
And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
23 Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the Lord your God;
For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you--
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.
24 The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.

25 "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.
27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:
I am the Lord your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

28 "And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

30 "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.
32 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the Lord has said,
Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.

-Book of the Prophet Joel Chapter 2 (NKJV)


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Forty Days in the Desert of Lent - Day 24

1 Then Job answered the Lord and said:

2 "I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.
3 You asked, 'Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?'
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
4 Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, 'I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'

5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
6 Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes."

7 And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. 8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has."

- Book of Job Ch. 42 (NKJV)