Homily on St. Luke 1:39-56

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

St. Luke 1:39-56

The Theotokos Visits Elisabeth

Today the Theotokos visits her cousin Elisabeth.  She is an example of humility and piety to us.  She is humble because she is ready to serve her elders.  Elisabeth is passed the age of childbearing.  She is also pious in that she is the greater going to serve the lesser and Christ in her is going to John.

The Theotokos’ purpose in going to Elisabeth was to serve her, but Jesus’ purpose was to sanctify St. John the Forerunner.  For this reason, the conception of Elisabeth was kept hidden from her for six months.  John needed to be developed enough to be able to leap for joy within the womb, before Christ came to him.

It was not until Christ came near that John was filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Fathers are very particular about the order that things occur today.  Christ in the womb of the Theotokos fills her with the Holy Spirit.  Then when she draws near to Elisabeth, John is filled with the Holy Spirit and leaps.  Finally, Elisabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies.

Theotokos, Elisabeth, Christ, John the Forerunner

The Ministry of St. John the Forerunner

Maximus of Turin compares this early ministry of St. John the Forerunner to His closing ministry,

Not yet born, already John prophesies and, while still in the enclosure of his mother’s womb, confesses the coming of Christ with movements of joy—since he could not do so with his voice. As Elizabeth says to holy Mary, “As soon as you greeted me, the child in my womb exulted for joy.” John exults, then, before he is born. Before his eyes can see what the world looks like, he can recognize the Lord of the world with his spirit. In this regard, I think that the prophetic phrase is appropriate: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you came forth from the womb I sanctified you.” Thus we ought not to marvel that after Herod put him in prison, he continued to announce Christ to his disciples from his confinement, when even confined in the womb he preached the same Lord by his movements.1

Elisabeth’s Prophecy

He begins and ends his ministry in a place of confinement.  Elisabeth is the one to hear the greeting, but John receives the grace first.  She was able to hear the Theotokos physically, but he leaped because of the mystery.  The womb’s covering is no obstacle to the mystical sight.  She saw Mary coming and he saw the Lord coming.  She who had before had only realised that she carried a son, glorifies now that she will bear a prophet and was immediately touched with the spirit of prophecy as St. Gregory the Dialogist tells us,

She was touched with the spirit of prophecy at once, both as to the past, present, and future. She knew that Mary had believed the promises of the Angel; she perceived when she gave her the name of mother, that Mary was carrying in her womb the Redeemer of mankind; and when she foretold that all things would be accomplished, she saw also what was as to follow in the future.2

The Theotokos Venerated by Men and Angels

In her prophecy and blessing she uses the same words as Gabriel, “Blessed are you among women…”.  To show that she is to be venerated by both men and angels.  This blessing is repeated daily by both Orthodox and Catholic believers.

Her first phrase points us toward venerating the Theotokos.  Her second phrase points us toward what venerating the Theotokos does and what her icon does.  The veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is to point us toward Christ.

“…and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Since it is through the Theotokos that we have both recovered the seed of the fruit of incorruption and also received the fruit of our heavenly inheritance that we lost in Adam.

As we see also in the resurrection, God sees to it that women have an integral part in the reconciliation of the world.  As sin began in woman and then spread to man, so salvation comes through and is foretold through a woman and then Christ and His prophet are born.

Christ’s Nature

Christ being the fruit of the Theotokos’ womb tells us at least two things about his nature.  First, he proceeds not from man but from the Theotokos alone.  Second, He took on the nature of Mary when He was conceived and born from her.

Humility

We see that the Holy Spirit that gave Elisabeth the ability to prophecy also gave her humility.

And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?

Today we see the humility of both of these ladies.  The Theotokos in coming to serve Elisabeth and Elisabeth in recognising that Mary is greater than her.  As the Venerable Bede explains,

As soon as Elizabeth saw the one who had come to her, she recognized that she was the mother of the Lord. But she discovered in herself no such merit by which she might have become worthy to be visited by such a guest. “And why has this happened to me,” she asked, “that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” Undoubtedly the very Spirit who conferred upon her the gift of prophecy at the same time endowed her with the favor of humility. Filled with the prophetic spirit, she understood that the mother of the Savior had drawn near to her. But being discreet in the spirit of humility, she understood that she herself was less than worthy of Mary’s coming.3

Bearing the Word of God

Finally, St. Elisabeth blesses the obedience of the Theotokos.  As the Theotokos is blessed for hearing and believing so we can be as well.  St. Ambrose of Milan encourages each of us to have the soul of Mary in us.  For a soul that has believed has both conceived and bears the Word of God and declares his works.  Let us magnify the Lord then and rejoice in God.  She is the mother of Christ according to the flesh, yet He is the fruit of all according to faith.

Every soul receives the Word of God, provided that, undefiled and unstained by vices, it guards its purity with [unblemished] modesty.

The Response of the Theotokos

The Theotokos now verbalises her humility that she has already shown by her visit to Elisabeth.  She praises her God who has looked with favour on her lowliness.  However because of the heavenly grace, “she pronounces herself all at once lifted up and glorified to such a degree that rightly her preeminent blessedness would be marvelled at by the voices of all nations”4.

In Isaiah 31:9 the prophet states,

Blessed is he who has a seed in Zion, and kindred in Jerusalem.

St. Athanasius states that if this is the case, then how much more blessed is the Theotokos who although was made according to the flesh, has become the Mother of the Word.  In humility she states that all shall call her blessed.  The Venerable Bede tells us that it was fitting that as pride brought death into the world through our first parents, so through the lowliness and humility of Mary the entrance of life should be opened.  For this wonder let us also call her blessed.

Mercy from Generation to Generation

She continues telling us that that the mercy of the Lord is from generation to generation.  There are two ways that the fathers have understood this.  The first, which is where my mind would naturally go, is that his mercy lasts forever i.e., to every generation.

The second is that it either refers to the two peoples i.e., the Jew and Gentiles or that it refers to all the countries throughout the world that she foresaw would believe in Christ.  In this understanding, the Theotokos saw that we would one day believe.  How wonderful is that!

Conditional Mercy

However, we also see that his mercy is not given indiscriminately.  In other words, there is a condition to receiving His mercy.  It is given to those in every nation who fear him, that is upon those who through repentance are turned to faith and renewal.  Unbelievers shut themselves off from the mercy of God through their sin.

Bringing down the lofty from their thrones can refer to the leaders of the world who oppose Christ, but this is only in a limited sense in that they are being controlled by demons and evil spirits of the world.  The fathers tell us, the sense is a lot more that the evil forces of the world are brought down by Christ.  Christ has openly triumphed over His spiritual enemies.

It follows then that he has laid bare every heart that was puffed up and not obedient to Him and has exposed the wickedness of proud hearts.  However, this is not without remedy.  If men and women have been cast down because of their pride and rebellion, they can if they humble themselves return to his grace when he has mercy on them.  They can be counted among the lowly that he exalts.  One of the Fathers explains,

For our understanding is acknowledged to be the judgment-seat of God, but after the transgression, the powers of evil took their seat in the heart of the first man as on their own throne. For this reason then the Lord came and cast out the evil spirits from the seat of our will, and raised up those who were vanquished by devils, purging their consciences, and making their hearts his own dwelling place.5

Hungry Fed

The hungry she is referring generally to the human race and specifically to the Gentiles.  Israel had the food of the law and prophets, but the Gentiles had nothing.  When the Jewish people collectively rejected Christ, they were sent away empty, but now the Gentiles have been fed with the life of Christ.

His servant Israel does not necessarily refer to ethnic Israel.  (Although it does include as many as were faithful to God in ethnic Israel).  He has helped His servant Israel i.e., all those who through faith and the sacraments have been made children of Israel.

The Theotokos’ Return

The Theotokos remained for three months.  Both out of friendship for Elisabeth, and also for the benefit that Christ was giving to her yet unborn child.  She left before the birth of John because it was not proper at that time for a virgin to be present at the birth of a child.

Application

Today, let us follow the example of the Theotokos and Elisabeth and live in humility.  If we are younger, we must help those who are older, and if we are greater, we must serve those who are less.  If we are less, let us give thanks to those who are greater helping us.

Let us join with the angels and the saints of all generations and venerate the Theotokos.  In our veneration, let us be drawn to the fruit of her womb i.e., to Christ.  We must give Him our worship and honour today.

Let us also praise God that He raised up the humility of servant girl to be His Blessed mother.

Finally let us praise God for the salvation that He has accomplished through His Son.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

1 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/1/41

2 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/1/40

3 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/1/43

4 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/1/46

5 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/1/52

Visitation, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=58366 [retrieved December 7, 2021]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Visitation_Pelendri.jpg.

Homily on St. Matthew 19:13–26

St. Matthew 19:13–26

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

Blessing the Children

Jesus and Children

Jesus blesses the children.  The disciples thinking that they were giving honour to Christ, tried to prevent their coming.  However, they were actually detracting from His glory.  For just as a doctor cannot have recognition unless he has sick to heal, so Christ cannot save those who do not come to Him.

The Kingdom Belongs to Such

Children come to Jesus, and he says that to such the kingdom of heaven belongs.  The Fathers focus on the phrasing, “of such” rather than “of these”.  This points to the nature or the disposition of a child rather than the age of a child.

Characteristics of Children

Some of the characteristics that the fathers encourage us to have are:

  • Ignorance on how to return evil for evil
  • Not knowing to do someone an injury
  • Not knowing how to be lustful or to rob
  • Believing what they hear
  • Loving parents with complete affection
  • Pure from all passions
  • No resentment towards those who annoy
  • Not grieved at the loss of money or things like that
  • Simplicity
  • Guilelessness
  • Innocence

Recognising this way of life one of the fathers encourages us this way,

Therefore, beloved, the Lord instructs us that what they are by the gift of nature, we should become by the fear of God, a holy way of life and love of the heavenly kingdom; for unless we are alien to all sin just like children, we cannot come to the Saviour.1

and St. John Chrysostom challenges us this way,

Knowing then all these things, let us lay down these passions, that we may not both pay a penalty here, and there be punished without end. Let us become lovers of virtue. For so both before reaching the kingdom we shall reap the greatest benefits here, and when we are departed there we shall partake of the eternal blessings; unto which God grant we may all attain by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.2

Let us then strive to have the nature of children.

Children a Picture of Gentiles

I mentioned earlier the disciples were wrong in dissuading the children from coming to Jesus. However, even in the disciples doing this, the fathers see a picture of what Christ would do.

The children prefigure the Gentiles, to whom salvation is given through faith and the simple word.  But since the goal was first to save Israel, they were first prevented by the disciples from approaching.  The action of the apostles is not about their personal desires but rather their serving as a prefiguring of the future proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles.   The Lord says that the children should not be prevented because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”; for the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit was going to be bestowed on the Gentiles by the laying on of hands, when the work of the law ceased.3

This laying on of hands is very significant.  As I said before we need to strive to have the nature of children, but we can only accomplish that through receiving grace.  We receive grace through Christ laying hands on us through bishops and priests, through baptism, through the Eucharist and through other Mysteries.  These things work hand in hand, we receive grace, and we strive to perfect His nature in our lives.  We strive to attain the virtues and we receive grace from God.  It is hard to say which action comes first.

The Intent of the Rich Young Ruler

The rich young ruler is a new event chronologically but it is still teaching us to acquire the virtues.  We see in his approach to Jesus that he was earnestly seeking eternal life.  The fathers tell us that it is true that he was greedy and loved his wealth, but we must be careful that we do not blame him for hypocrisy when there is no indication that he was attempting to deceive.

Notice also that Jesus does not criticize the teaching or the keeping of the law.  The law is good as St. Paul testifies also in one of his epistles.  Jesus says, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  The emphasis here is on the word enter.  This indicates the start of the route to life but not its completion.  He is teaching us that while the law is not foreign to Himself, perfection itself must come from Him.

We see the earnestness or sincerity of this young man through both his questions and his reactions.  He has come with the willingness to obey.  He wants to know which commands to keep and if he has missed any.  He is asking the Saviour for clarification since it is his desire to enter life.

Strength of Will

However, he has come with too weak of a will.  Riches have too strong a grip on his life.  St. Augustin asks, what good does it do us to follow the law, if we are not willing to follow Christ.

I remember listening to Paul Washer share an illustration that highlights the truth of this situation.

There was a concert violinist that gave a beautiful performance without a mistake.  Someone came up to them afterwards and said, “I’d give my life to play like that.”  The violinist answered, “I did”.

For this young man, riches were the hurdle that his will couldn’t overcome.  What is keeping each one of us from loving our neighbours fully.  Are we willing to give our whole life to following Christ?   The law is the starting point to the way of life, but following Christ has both greater rewards and a greater difficulty.

Law and Christ

In the law, we have the starting point for justice, but in Christ we learn both to receive goodness and also to impart it.  The law gives us access to the ground level of eternal life, but it isn’t sufficient to lead us to the higher life and perfection.

There is also a second part that Christ asks of this man, “Come, follow me.”.  Simply abandoning the love of riches or whatever other vice that is holding you back is not enough.  You must also follow Christ.  Giving up the riches is only the beginning in preparing riches in the kingdom of heaven.  We must both abandon evil and do good.  We must walk in the steps of our Saviour.  St. Theophylact of Ochrid tells us that many have abandoned their wealth but still led a life full of filth.  Our salvation is ongoing.  We must continue to follow and pursue Christ.

Origen tells us that the one who gives up his riches to become perfect, shall have assistance to become wise in Christ.  We work out our salvation with fear and trembling with God also working in us.  We must from that day forward spend time in contemplating God and learning His ways that we might be perfect.

Impossible is Possible

Christ then compares the difficulty of rich being saved to that of a camel going through the eye of a needle.  This is to show that for those who love riches it is impossible in the greatest degree for them to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The disciples were astounded when they heard this.  St. John Chrysostom tells us that they were upset for the salvation of the rich.  They were learning to have compassion on others.  They would become teachers and this was a beginning step towards that end.  Their desire was for the rich to be saved as well.

Impossible can become possible as St. John Chrysostom explains,

If you also want to learn the way and how the impossible becomes possible, listen.  He did not make this statement that what is impossible for man is possible for God merely so you could relax and do nothing and leave it all to God. No, he said this so you could understand the importance of calling upon God to give you help in this rigorous contest and that you might more readily approach His grace.4

Application

  1. Let us seek to acquire the nature and innocence of a child.  We must put aside the spite and envy that we have and learn the trustfulness and simplicity of a child.
  2. We Must partake of the mysteries as often as we can so that we might receive God’s grace to aid us in becoming more like Him.
  3. Let us come like the rich young ruler in earnestness and sincerity to Christ to learn how we must change to enter life.  We must pray that our will would be able to overcome the difficulties in following Christ.
  4. We must look to our lives.  Are there riches or other things that are preventing us from fully loving and following Christ?
  5. We must work together with God so that our salvation may be complete – a mixture of striving and receiving.
  6. Let us have compassion and desire that all would receive this salvation as well.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

1 https://www.catenabible.com/mt/19/14

2 https://www.catenabible.com/mt/19/14

3 Thomas C. Oden and Manlio Simonetti, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament Ib (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 95

4 Ibid, 103

J. & R. Lamb Studios. Jesus Welcomes the Children, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=56639 [retrieved November 2, 2021]. Original source: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/lambdc.04743/?co=lamb.

Another Homily on the Rich Young Ruler

Homily on St. Matthew 15:12-20

St. Matthew 15:12-20

Barekmor,

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,

heart

Disciples Rebuked

In our Gospel reading today, the disciples asked a question of our Saviour.  They framed their question in such a way that sounded like others were offended, which was true, but the fathers tell us that they were also hiding the fact that they were offended as well.  Therefore, they were rebuked along with the Pharisees.

Restoration Through Rebuke

We see in Christ’s response, that different offences are to be treated differently.  In June of this year, we looked at a time when Jesus chose not to offend over the collection of the temple tax.  We see then that when our words or action cause offence, we must discern whether that offence is needful or can be avoided.  In this case it is needed because those offended were misleading others.

In the preceding verses to our passage, we read about how a certain tradition had caused a transgression of God’s law.  The teaching of the Pharisees and elders of Israel were causing there to be a misleading of the people.  For this reason, Christ is not concerned that offence has been given, but that the teaching would match what God intended.  This rebuke was given for the purpose of restoration.

Human Precepts or Divine Law

St. Chromatius explains that what the Pharisees had done was to arrogantly transgress the divine law. Then they planted their own precepts in the place of God’s and desired that these precepts would be observed as Divine law.  In essence they were taking the place of God.

Short Shelf Life of Heresy

Human precepts and laws are not planted by God but by men and will be uprooted.  The Church fathers parallel these precepts of the Pharisees with the teachings of heretics.  Both the teachings of the heretics and the Pharisees would not last because they have their root in the devil and not in God.  They may spread their branches for awhile and seem great, but in the end, they will be uprooted.

A few months ago, I was listening to someone recount their conversion to Orthodoxy.  They had a question about a teaching or controversy.  (I can’t quite remember which particular issue).  They asked the priest about it and his response was that this particular problem only lasted about 80 years so not to worry about it.

False teachings will be shown to be false by their brevity.  We have seen this as we have studied Church history.  Take Arianism for example, it was a real struggle for several hundred years of the early church but eventually it was rejected by everyone.  It has been attempted to be reintroduced several times in the hundreds of years since but keeps being ultimately rejected.  However, it has no longevity. Arianism has been planted again and again.

Guard Ourselves Against Heresy

We are to leave heretics alone.  They will receive the consequences of their false teaching.  In the words of the parable, they will fall into the pit.  However, at the same time, we need to avoid being guided by these blind persons.

We have the teachings of the Scriptures and the Fathers, and we should listen attentively and with caution to those who teach and apply a healthy judgement to what they say.  We are not to do this with a critical spirit, but just the same as a man with sight would walk down the road.  Our sight is the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church that has been handed down to us from the Apostles.  We do not wish to appear blind as well.

St. Theophylact of Ochrid also points out that it is not spiritually harmful to us to give offence to those who willingly take offence and those who incurably bad.  In other words, if people wish to be offended or do not wish to repent then we do not need to worry about whether we are offending them.

Heart is Important

Jesus asks St. Peter, “Are you also still without understanding?”.  This understanding is that which purifies or defiles a man must touch the heart.  Things that only touch the stomach cannot purify or defile us.

Diet an Aid to Godliness

It is also interesting to note that Israel was not under dietary restrictions until after they had worshipped the golden calf.  St. Chromatius of Aquileia explains,

Those necessary things were forbidden by the Lord, so that with the best food having been denied and their immoderate appetites mortified, the people might abide more easily by the discipline of divine observance….Concerning them, as though to rebuke this stiffnecked people, the Lord made a mild and merciful pronouncement: “They shall be unclean to you.” Not that they are in themselves unclean, but “shall be.” Nor did he say “to all” but “to you.” He thus made it clear that neither were they unclean nor would they be unclean to people other than themselves.1

Israel’s dietary laws were put in place to help in their spiritual development, not to be a spiritual thing in and of itself.  This is the same with our fasting guidelines for the various fasts throughout the year.  When our diet becomes of more importance than seeking the Lord, we are encouraged to stop fasting.  Dietary restrictions are to help discipline us so that we can draw closer to God and not to be a source of pride that we can lord over others.

Heart vs. Stomach

St. John Chrysostom points out the difference between the heart and the stomach.  The stomach deals with something that is temporary i.e., it only has a limited time.  We eat, receive nourishment, and it is removed from us.  He is not saying that eating is bad or anything to do with the body is bad, but that it is not eternal.

The stomach is fed from the outside, but the defilement from the heart proceeds from the heart.  Having gone out it defiles more and more.  Once it has been released, it is difficult to stop.  The fathers also point out that we must recognise that our thoughts come from our hearts rather than from our brain.  This is the principal place of action in our being.

Evil proceeds from within our hearts, what are we to do?  Origen encourages us to deal with it, before it has a chance to be spoken or acted upon.  Satan gives us suggestions and we have thoughts on our own.  As these things spring up within us, we need to deal with them.  Whether that means asking the Lord for mercy, or washing ourselves with the virtues, we need to do something.  The worst thing that we can do is to allow these thoughts to proceed out of our mouths and defile others.

Application

First, if we are causing offence to others, we need to discern if it is being caused to those who are being offended willingly.  If it is because of the way that we are doing something, then we should remedy our actions.  However, if someone is not wishing to repent or is desiring to be offended then we should leave them alone.

Second, we must study the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church so that we might not be blind.  We need to follow our leaders and Christ with sight not with blindness.

Third, we must never confuse dietary restrictions with spirituality.  They are a tool to help us draw closer to Christ they are not to be a source of pride.

Fourth, we need to recognise and deal with the evil that proceeds from our hearts before it goes out from us and begins to defile others.  Spend time in prayer, spend time learning to live out the virtues.

Finally, St. John Chrysostom reminds us that no one is forbidding general hygiene and eating food.  He tells us to do what is necessary as far as washing and eating and looking after ourselves physically. However it is even more important to clean and fill ourselves with what is fitting spiritually.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Bruegel, Pieter, approximately 1525-1569. Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54985 [retrieved November 3, 2021]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Parable_of_the_Blind_Leading_the_Blind_-_WGA3511.jpg.

1 https://www.catenabible.com/mt/15/17

Homily on St. Luke 11:9–20

St. Luke 11:9-20

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Prayer as a Way of Life

In first part of our Gospel reading, we have a teaching that shows that prayer is a lifestyle.  It encompasses three separate actions – asking, seeking, and knocking.  There is also a lot of overlap between the three actions.  In our western analytical or mathematical minds, we like everything to be clearly defined and separated.

I have heard teaching that clearly lays out what is asking, seeking, and knocking and the differences between.  You may have as well. If that has been case, we need to lay that aside and look at it as a way of life.

So, why do we pray?  We pray because we believe Jesus.  He says that if you ask, then you will receive.  St. Cyril of Alexandria explains that this promise has the strength of an oath.  It is not that God is false that an oath is used. Rather it is to show that the smallness of our faith is groundless.  St. Cyril tells us that it is to confirm the hearers in faith.  In our own lives we can recount the many times that God has answered our prayers.  It is important to review the answers to prayers frequently because it reminds us of the faithfulness of God to answer.

Unanswered Prayers?

However, we know that not every prayer is answered.  St. James says as much in his epistle.  If Jesus, promises to answer our prayers and they aren’t, what is going on?

This gets us more into the seeking and knocking part of prayer and shows us how much prayer is a way of life.  Origen tells that if we fail to do the things that aid us in receiving our requests and turn away from the object of our petition, then we aren’t really asking.  To ask means to live in such a way that we are pursuing the answer of our request.

Godly Conduct Needed

St. Basil Great also points out that our conduct and way of life will affect our ability to be heard by God. He writes,

If also any one from indolence surrenders himself to his desires, and betrays himself into the hands of his enemies, God neither assists him nor hears him, because by sin he has alienated himself from God. It becomes then a man to offer whatever belongs to him, but to cry to God to assist him. Now we must ask for the Divine assistance not slackly, nor with a mind wavering to and fro, because such a one will not only not obtain what it seeks, but will the rather provoke God to anger. For if a man standing before a prince has his eye fixed within and without, lest perchance he should be punished, how much more before God ought he to stand watchful and trembling? But if when awakened by sin you are unable to pray steadfastly to the utmost of your power, check yourself, that when you stand before God you may direct your mind to Him.1

The Sacramental Life

If we aren’t careful to live uprightly, then God will not hear us.  Growing up, I heard often enough that my family was considered legalistic because we paid more attention to dress and way of life than other families would.  Since we often restrict the Christian life to something spiritual or intellectual, this makes perfect sense.  How we act in that scenario would have no effect on our prayers.

However, in the sacramental life, we understand that everything that we do has an impact on everything else.  We pray through every action that we do.  A few months ago, I was asked about baptismal crosses and how they should be worn.  One of the things that I learned when I was researching an answer for that is that a baptismal cross is a physical prayer or statement.  By wearing our baptismal crosses, we are declaring to the spiritual world that we belong to Christ.

Live to Please the Lord

Our lifestyle of prayer isn’t lived intentionally so that others can see us, but it may be evident.   Comparing to the baptismal crosses again, they are typically worn under our clothes, but the chain may still be visible.  Our life and our choices are to be continually in the function of prayer pursuing God and the lifestyle that pleases him.  The choices we make will most likely cause others to ask us questions, but they aren’t done for that purpose.  They are done to be pleasing to the Lord.

Waiting for the Answer

There is also the question of waiting for an answer to our prayer.  The Venerable Bede compares the asking to making the request, seeking to following the lifestyle of prayer, and knocking as the remaining persistent in prayer.

We live in an instant society and expect things to happen immediately.  To highlight this, I think that it was this week I saw an article complaining that an announcement had been made a few days before had not yet been implemented.  We hear something and expect it to happen by tomorrow or sooner.  This journalist is simply a product of our culture.

When I took a trip to an Asian country, I was confronted by a different culture.  It was one of waiting in prayer.  Whereas I often pray, and the answer doesn’t come in a few days, then I think of it as a non-answer or a no.  However, a believer in that country explained that they pray about projects and then seek permission from the government officials.  If the request is denied they don’t take it as a no, but rather as something that needs more prayer.  They will continue to pray until they have the freedom to go ahead with the project.

Spiritual Meaning of Requests

These human examples of asking and receiving in the next part of the passage, first of all tell us that God is good in a way that is beyond human goodness, but these requests have also a spiritual connotation.  As St. John Chrysostom explains,

But by the fish is signified the belief in invisible things, either from the waters of baptism, or because it is taken out of invisible places which the eye cannot reach. Because also faith, though tossed about by the waves of this world, is not destroyed, it is rightly compared to a fish, in opposition to which he has placed the serpent on account of the poison of deceit, which by evil persuasion had its first seed in the first man. Or, by the egg is understood hope. For the egg is the young not yet formed, but hoped for through cherishing, opposed to which he has placed the scorpion, whose poisoned sting is to be dreaded behind; as the contrary to hope is to lookback, since the hope of the future reaches forward to those things which are before.2

To sum up, the specific requests are for hope and belief or faith.  Finally because we have confidence from our prayers being answered, and the nature of even humans giving what is asked, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit will be given to us.

In the prayer rule that I use, I frequently ask that God would not take His Holy Spirit from me.  From this passage we have the confidence that God will hear and answer this prayer.

Application

As you go from reading this, make an effort first of all to  present your requests to the Lord.   We have his promise that He will answer us.

Second, let us look to our lives.  Are we living in such a way that would say that we are pursuing that answer to prayer?  Furthermore, in a more general sense are we living in a way that we can be received into the presence of Christ?  St. Basil the Great tells us that if we are not living in such a way from weakness rather than from indifference or apathy, God will pardon us.  Our intentions must be holy and pure, even if we do not have the strength to be fully pure yet.

Third, we must pray and never give up.  We must remember the widow who sought justice from the unjust judge and the friend who knocked on his neighbour’s door.  We must ask and remain faithful in asking until we receive an answer from the Lord.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Footnotes

1 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/11/9

2 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/11/9

Homily on St. Luke 14:7–11

St. Luke 14:7–11

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Stealing Honour

In our Gospel passage this morning, we have a lesson in humility or maybe instruction in how to avoid embarrassment.  St. Cyril of Alexandria points out that it is not merely the sin of pride that would cause us to take the place of another but also the sin of theft.

honour

Therefore, if we have taken the seat of honour that belongs to another, then we must make restitution.  In that light, it is not just a matter of being disgraced or receiving your comeuppance, but rather of restoring the one whose honour you have stolen through your own disgrace, i.e., making restitution to him.

Example

In Metropolitan’s book, Touching Godliness, he explains the significance of chairs of honour.  I remember seeing this to a limited extent in some homes that I went to when I tagged along with my dad’s pastoral visitation as well.

In some cultures, especially throughout Asia, for a younger person or subordinate to sit on the official chair of an elder or leader is seen as disrespectful. When I was growing up, we children were not to sit on our father’s chair. My mother would tell us, “That is your father’s chair. Don’t sit on it.”

When visitors or relatives came to our home, no one would sit there. Even when he was not at home, his chair remained vacant. Still today, when I go to any house in any country, I look around to find the chair where the father of the house sits, and I will not sit on that chair. When people insist that I do, I simply explain, “I am sorry. It is out of respect. I cannot do it.”1

Requirements for Places of Honour

The places of honour at a feast are decided by the host of the feast.   This feast is hosted by the Lord, so it is His criteria, St. Irenaeus tells us, of who is the greatest and who is the least.  Furthermore, he explains that resistance or opposition to that criterion is a far greater sin of pride than of simply taking the place that doesn’t  belong to you.  St. Cyril of Alexandria explains what the requirements are for the places at the Lord’s feast,

If any one among you wants to be set above others, let him win it by the decree of heaven and be crowned by those honours that God bestows. Let him surpass the many by having the testimony of glorious virtues. The rule of virtue is a lowly mind that does not love boasting. It is humility.2

It is not merely enough for us to refrain from seeking the greatest places but also to seek the lowest places.  If we want theses virtues and to come quickly up the heavenly ascent, St. Benedict tells us that we need to focus on good works.  It is through working our faith out with Christ and learning the virtues and making them part of our life that we are able to ascend in our spiritual life.

Foolishness of Christian Lawsuits

In our epistle reading, we see a practical life situation to work out this parable.  St. Paul tells us that it is better to be wronged than to go before unbelievers.  It is better to let others have a place of greater prominence than to force yourself into that place of prominence.  We are to learn humility by allowing others to defraud us.

The Fathers point out the absurdity of Christians having lawsuits before unbelievers.  It is like two friends choosing their mutual enemy to be the one who will reconcile their differences.  It simply doesn’t make any sense.

Furthermore, it is disgraceful for us to do such a thing.  We are going to judge the world for important things, and we condescend to be judged by them over trivial things?  This is simply crazy.  If we think it through logically there is simply no conceivable reasons for Christians to be taking Christians before unbelievers.

In all this we do not say or understand that we are to resist or disrespect secular authorities.  Romans 13 and other places very clearly admonishes us to respect their authority and to give them honour.  We are simply not to appeal to them as our arbiter.

4 Sins in Lawsuits

St. John Chrysostom tells us that in taking other believers to court we may be guilty of at least four sins or crimes.

The first is not knowing how to bear being wronged.  The second is to do no wrong.  The third is to reserve settlement of the matter to the unrighteous.  And the fourth is that this kind of thing is being done to fellow believers.3

God has called us to the way of life and love.  If we are fostering anything in our lives that cause division, we are walking contrary to the way we have been called.  As far as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with all men.

Application

What to do now?  If we have taken a place of honour for ourselves, let us seek to make restitution to the one to whom it belongs.  We must actively seek to live a life of humility.  We must seek to add the virtues to our lives.

Is there a way today or this week that we know of to give honour to another?  Let us make sure that we do so.

Let us try to give honour to our secular authorities as much as we can.  We can do this through simply following the Covid restrictions as much as possible.  Following the rules of the road.  We can also be mindful to pray and bless our political leaders whether we agree with their policies or not.  We can also try to remember to speak of them with their correct titles.  I have noticed a trend to speak of the Premier and the Prime Minister among some of my circles of friends by their first name if they don’t appreciate their political policies.  Let us strive to give as much honour as we can.

Finally let us pray for and bless our plaintiffs.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Footnotes

Lauder, Robert Scott, 1803-1869. Christ Teaches Humility, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55623 [retrieved December 10, 2021]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Teacheth_Humility.jpg.

1 Moran Mor Athanasius Yohan I Metropolitan, Touching Godliness (Believers Eastern Church, 2008, 2013), 123

2 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 236

3 Thomas C. Oden and Gerald Bray, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 51

Homily on St. John 20:1-18

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

He is Risen!

The Firstborn

Of the Theotokos

If we think back a few months ago to Christmas or just a week and a half ago to the Feast of the Annunciation, we remember that Jesus was born from the unviolated virginal womb of the Theotokos.  So, also today we see that Christ was raised from the sealed tomb.  Christ rose and left the tomb with the seal still intact, just as the Theotokos remains a virgin.  The stone and seals were removed after the resurrection so that the disciples could see that He truly was not there.

He was made the firstborn of His mother and today we celebrate that He was the firstborn from the dead.  If you take a look at the icon below, you will see Christ taking the hand of an older man and woman.  This couple is Adam and Eve.

Resurrection

Of the Dead

In His resurrection, He is not only the firstborn of the dead.  He has also raised up the race of Adam i.e., us.  Hesychius of Jerusalem puts it this way,

Born for the sake of human beings, He rose from the dead with them.  On this day paradise is opened by the risen One, Adam is restored to life and Eve is consoled.  On this day the Divine call is heard, the kingdom is prepared, we are saved and Christ is adored.  On this day, when He had trampled death underfoot, made the tyrant a prisoner and despoiled the underworld, Christ ascended into heaven as a king in victory, as a ruler in glory, as an invincible charioteer.1

Through the resurrection of Christ, we are raised as well.  We remember that it is in baptism that we are raised from death to life.  We experience the resurrection that we celebrate in our baptism.

Resurrection Narrative

We see Mary Magdalene come to the garden and tell St. Peter and St. John that the body of Christ is not there.  If we look closely at the words there, we can see how great her faith is.  She calls Jesus Lord even though He had died the shameful death of the cross.  His manner of death had not shaken her faith in who He truly is.

The resurrection is proclaimed to Jerusalem and the world through the timing of  Peter and John coming to the sepulchre.  They did not come in the middle of the night but after the sun had risen.  Since they did not come in the darkness, no one can suspect them of stealing the body away as the chief priests would later make accusation.

In addition, there is another problem with the priests’ accusation that the Fathers point out.  The linen combined with myrrh that the body was wrapped in glues to the body.  They say more firmly than lead.  I am not real familiar with the properties of lead but suffice to say it wouldn’t be removed from the skin without a lot of effort.

They point out that no thief would take the time to unwrap the body and roll up the napkin and place it apart.  A thief, I believe would be trying to get in and get out in the shortest time possible especially with the soldiers “sleeping” just outside the tomb.

Christ’s Resurrection and Our Resurrection

Christ putting aside the graveclothes tells us something about his transformed body and our own resurrection bodies.  Eusebius of Caesarea explains,

For God, who transforms the bodies of our humiliation so as to be conformed to the body of Christ’s glory, changed the body as an organ of the power that dwelt in it, changing it into something more divine.  But he left the linen cloths as superfluous and foreign to the nature of the body.2

Jesus’ body was transformed, just as we will be transformed in the resurrection.  In the resurrection we not only see Christ raised, but we see what we will be like.  As St. John later writes,

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

St. Peter and St. John Believe

St. Mary Magdalene came to St. John and St. Peter alone which is put so beautifully in Don Francisco’s song He’s Alive.  However, when they go to the tomb to check out the story, we now have two witnesses as required by Old Testament law to verify a fact.  Albeit they don’t yet meet Jesus, but they are able to believe the resurrection by virtue of the grave clothes that were left behind.

From that time on, they began to believe that He had burst the bonds of death even though that they didn’t understand the Scripture yet.  When their understanding was eventually opened, they had the firm foundation of having seen the empty grave.  Their faith would be built on the rock of what they had seen and heard.  They would go on to proclaim this eyewitness message to the ends of the earth.

St. Mary’s Love and Doubt

We now see that St. Mary Magdalene returns to the garden to look for her Lord as the disciples return home.  She was not satisfied to look once for she loved Him.  The Fathers compare her devotion to that of the woman of Song of Solomon who continued seeking until she found her love.  Both of them were rewarded because they wouldn’t give up until they found.

The Fathers also encourage us to seek holy things in the same way.  If we are seeking to be humble, or to manage our tongue better, or to care more for others etc. and we fail.  It doesn’t mean to stop looking for these virtues.  It means to return and look again for the Lord so that we can have victory in these areas and eventually see them as a part of our lives.

We see in her a mixture of doubt and love, which kept her from recognising Christ.  Through her love, He was revealed to her, but her doubt kept her from knowing Him.  If we have doubt this morning in our faith, don’t be discouraged.  Hang onto the love we have for our Saviour and He will reveal Himself to you.  Doubts will come and go but we must remain faithful in loving Him.

Our Lord asks for the reason of her sorrow so that she would long for Him even more.  He desired that she would have an even more fervent love for Him, when asked who she was looking for.

Christ the Gardener

She thinks Him to be a gardener.  The Fathers point out that she is not wrong in this thought.  While He is not a gardener of plants and flowers, He is a gardener of hearts and His Paradise.  He plants virtues and godliness in the hearts of those who love. Him.  A picture of this is portrayed in Hannah Hurnard’s book Hinds Feet on High Places.  A thread that runs through the book is that the Shepherd plants love in the heart of the main character and removes bad plants out of it through her journey to the high places.  This is the idea of Christ being a gardener.  He looks after us and gives us the tending that we need.

The Glory of Christ

Jesus says to St. Mary Magdalene do not hold on to me or do not touch me.  He says this for several reasons.  We will touch on two this morning.  First, it was to show that His body was already glorified.  During His earthly ministry, He was a servant to everyone, and everyone had power over Him.  Tax collectors and sinners used to come and touch Him.  But when He was made Lord, when He was glorified, fear of Him was over everyone.

We can see this in a lesser degree to the way the Queen and other government officials are respected.  We don’t just go up and touch them.  In the revelation that was given to St. John, we can see this difference.  In the Gospels He leaned on Jesus’ breast.  In the Revelation, He fell at Christ’s feet.

The Church Brings Understanding

Second, St. Mary represents the Church.  St Leo the Great explains this.  “You” is speaking of the Church.

I would not have you come to Me as to a human body or recognise Me by fleshly perceptions.  I want you to wait for higher things.  I prepare greater things for you.  When I have ascended to My Father then you shall handle Me more perfectly and truly, for you shall grasp what you cannot touch and believe what you cannot see.3

It is now in the Church that we can see and understand who Christ is.  The garden was not the place to experience this seeming new reality.  He was now glorified and had overcome sin death and hell.  We now worship Him with new understanding.

When we hear that God has become the Father of the Firstfruit of resurrection, we no longer doubt that He has become our Father as well.  He took on our flesh and raised it again out of the grave that His God might be our God.  We shall enter into heaven after Him where He has gone as the forerunner.

Restoration

Finally, in the account of the resurrection, we see the sin of the human race returned to where it began.

In Paradise the woman gave the man the deadly fruit, a woman from the sepulchre announced life to men; a woman delivers the message of Him who raises us from the dead, as a woman had delivered the words of the serpent who slew us.4

The fall that occurred at the beginning of the world has been set right.

Application

Let us to have a strong faith so that we will see Christ as Lord no matter our circumstances.

Let us look forward to that day when we will be united with Christ and our bodies will be transformed like His.

We must take the time to cultivate the virtues and must not stop if we fail once but try again and seek the Lord through the virtues.  Working with Christ, we must keep seeking until , His nature is perfected in us.  We can take it in small chunks.  If we have a problem saying wrong things, purpose to say a small number of praises or blessings each day and gradually increase it as God gives you grace.  The same way with pride, seek small ways to be humble and so on and so forth with whichever virtue that you are seeking to add to your life.

Let us build our faith today on that of St. John and St. Peter.  They saw the empty tomb and proclaimed the message to the world.  We must also share this with the world.

Let us rejoice today that the destruction of the fall has been undone.  Christ has won the victory.  In a few moments we will be partaking of the Eucharist and receiving of that resurrection life.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

He is Risen!

Footnotes

Surgun100, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Burnand, Eugène, 1850-1921. Disciples John and Peter on their way to the tomb on Easter morning, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55038 [retrieved May 14, 2021]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BurnandJeanPierre.jpg.

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVb (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), ?

2 ibid, ?

3 ibid, ?

4 ibid, ?

Homily on St. Luke 13:10-17

St. Luke 13:10-17

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Humility

Jesus Healing

Fig Tree

Our theme this week is to forsake pride and pursue humility.  In our Gospel reading we are looking at how pride blinds us.  As I was reading through the fathers on this passage, I learned that this story is a life example of what Jesus had been teaching in the previous four verses – St. Luke 13:6-9

The Bent Woman

In this account, we have both a picture of the fig tree that becomes fruitful and the one that is cut down.  Let us follow the example of the first and take warning of the former.  The fig tree is a picture of the woman for while it was unfruitful, she was bowed down.  The fig tree and the woman are both together a picture of our situation before salvation.

Human nature rushes into sin and since we won’t produce the fruit of obedience, we lose our state of uprightness.  However, when the tree becomes fruitful, and the woman stands upright we see a picture of our salvation.  The woman was bowed over for eighteen years and the fig tree had been tended for three years.

Symbolic Numbers

18 – Creation to Salvation

The fathers understand the numbers a little differently than I am used to, but they see three sets of sixes signified in these eighteen years, so that the time period for both are symbolically the same.  The first two sixes are the sixth day of creation.  First, man was created on this day and second the Lord completed all His work.  The third six is this day plus all the time until grace came.  During this time man refused to do perfect works.   As a result, mankind like this woman was bowed down.  St. Gregory explains the state of mankind,

For every sinner who thinks earthly things, not seeking those that are in heaven, is unable to look up. For while pursuing his baser desires, he declines from the uprightness of his state; or his heart is bent crooked, and he ever looks upon that which he unceasingly thinks about. The Lord called her and made her upright, for He enlightened her and succored her. He sometimes calls but does not make upright, for when we are enlightened by grace, we oft-times see what should be done, but because of sin do not practice it. For habitual sin binds down the mind, so that it cannot rise to uprightness. It makes attempts and fails, because when it has long stood by its own will, when the will is lacking, it falls.1

18 – The Church

This is our state until Christ empowers us to overcome.  However, even though habitual sin causes our mind to fall again and again, there is hope.  Putting the fig tree aside, the fathers see another picture in the number eighteen.  This woman now representing the Church could not expect to be healed unless she had fulfilled both law and grace.

In eighteen we see ten reminding us of the summation or the perfection of the law and in the number eight the fullness of the resurrection.  A little background on eight or the eighth day, in the ancient Church the resurrection was considered to have occurred on the eighth day rather than on the first day as we typically say today.

The fullness of the resurrection of course is the coming resurrection when by the mercy of God, we end our labours of this body and are united with God.  However, there is also some grace given for today.  In this woman coming on the Sabbath to be healed we see a symbol of confession.  She could have remained apart bowed down in her sins but she came to God in the synagogue.  We also must come despite our transgressions with confession, when we ask God for healing either physical or spiritual healing.

Healing with Physical Touch

We also see that she was not loosed or healed when Jesus spoke to her but when he laid his hands on her.  In the quote from St. Gregory and other fathers talk about this, we are not only healed, as the woman was not healed, when Christ speaks.  Our mind may still be bowed down by sin.  We need to receive the energy from His divine hands so that we can in collaboration with Him do the works of virtue.  He is working in us so that it is not just Him or not just us but both of us together.

Further, we must not be just satisfied with the healing that comes through instruction and word.  It may be only when we receive the physical sacraments or mysteries that we receive the energies of God.  This is one of the reasons that we place such an emphasis on the Eucharist, Baptism, anointing for healing, and other mysteries.  In the mystery of God, He has caused it that we receive grace through physical things.

Sickness

Having looked at what this story is a picture of, let us also see what happened as well.  This woman has an infirmity for eighteen years.  Why is there sickness in the first place and over this woman in particular?

We understand that sickness came through the fall of Adam and that Satan has been given the power to inflict it.  Through Adam’s transgression our bodies have both been opened to the possibility of infirmity and decay and Satan has been allowed to be the cause of disease in our bodies.

This is especially highlighted in the case of this woman since it states that a spirit had crippled her. Whether it was for her own sins or for the result of the transgression of Adam, she suffered from the cruelty of the Devil. God grants this power to the Devil so that those afflicted might use it to spur them on to better things.

Healing

One of the purposes of the incarnation was to defeat sickness. As St. Cyril of Alexandria puts it,

The incarnation of the Word and his assumption of human nature took place for the overthrow of death, destruction and the envy harbored against us by the wicked Serpent, who was the first cause of evil.2

The incarnation warred against every assault of the Devil against the human race, both spiritual and physical attacks. As we need physical touch to overcome the virtues so also this woman needed physical touch to overcome her infirmity.  In this we see that His flesh bore the power and activity of God.  He is fully God and fully man and this is evidenced through physical touch healing and not just spoken healing as we sometimes see elsewhere in the Gospels.

Hypocrisy

This woman was bound by Satan, but the ruler of the synagogue took issue with this.  He is called a hypocrite because while appearing to be zealous for the Sabbath, He was really not upset that it had been broken but rather only that Christ had been glorified.

If we look at our own lives, do we look for a pretext to condemn others when attention has been directed away from us?  He was the ruler of the synagogue and was probably used to being in control of how things would go.  Does our pride keep us from praising God? If so, let us take some time today to repent and ask for the forgiveness of God.

The Church Foreshadowed

Christ’s response to the ruler of the synagogue is both a rebuke and a prophecy.  It was the duty of the ruler to care for those under his care.  He should have been rejoicing that the healing that his compassion desired had been accomplished.  However, he was more concerned with maintaining his doctrinal position even though it wasn’t consistent with his own life.  We must beware lest this is true of us as well.

Second it is a prophecy of the Church.  Two animals are mentioned an ox which is clean speaking of the Jewish people and a donkey which is unclean speaking of the Gentile peoples.  Both of these peoples would quench their thirst in Christ and thus through the calling of two nations, the Church would be saved.  Those who had been bound in sin would be loosed in Christ.

Application

Through this Lenten time, let us spend time in repentance and come to Jesus. Let us receive His grace through the Eucharist that we might overcome the habitual sins that are afflicting us.  When we are praying for one another, let us also lay our hands on them as well, since God somehow works through physical touch.

If someone in our care, receives healing from infirmity or sin let us rejoice with them. No matter whether we are the instrument for healing or if God uses someone else.

As we are working on putting aside vices through this Lenten season, let us focus on removing pride from our lives this week.  If we need others to pray for us, please ask someone that you can confide in to pray for you.

Finally, let us rejoice that God has loosed all peoples and brought them to refreshment in Christ.  Let us partake of that refreshment in the Eucharist in just a few moments.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew

Tissot, James, 1836-1902. Woman with an Infirmity of Eighteen Years, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57031 [retrieved August 26, 2019]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HealWomanSabbath.jpg.

1 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/13/10

2 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/13/10

Homily on St. Luke 5:17-26

St. Luke 5:17-26

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

A Familiar Story

Here we have a very familiar story.  Many of us, as we were growing up, probably learned this story in Sunday School.  However, there is a lot going on here and also some pictures of the Christian life.

Their Faith

In verse 20 St. Luke writes, “When He saw their faith”.  Notice it says their faith, the faith of the friends not the faith of the paralytic.  It was through their faith that his sins were forgiven.  The fathers tell us to take courage from this statement.  For there are times, maybe often or maybe just once in awhile, where we feel that our own prayers will have no effect.  In those times, don’t despair but find friends who will pray for you that you may be delivered.

Necessity of Community

We have often heard, but I’ll repeat it again, we cannot be individual or Lone Ranger Christians.  To remain strong in the Lord, we need the love and support of one another.  We cannot go it alone because if we fall then there will be nobody to pick us back up and encourage us to continue on.

So then, if we are in despair call the intercessors and call the Church.  Because the Lord regards His Church even if you do not trust that He will forgive because of your sins, He will forgive, what you think He may refuse you.

Friends are the Community

Those who let the paralytic down are not only the intercessors of the Church.  They are also the doctors or teachers of the Church.  We are brought to the faith through the witness and teaching of those who already know Him.  St. Augustin sees him being brought to Christ on bed as a picture that we must come to Christ while we are still in the flesh i.e., before we end our life on earth.

Forgiveness not Healing?

They bring the paralytic to Christ and He does not say, “You are healed.”, but “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”.  There are two things being said in this statement.  First, He is addressing all of humankind.  In the words of St. Cyril of Alexandria,

For those who believe in Him, being healed of the diseases of the soul, will receive forgiveness of the sins which they formerly committed.1

Second, it may mean that this sickness was caused by disease of the soul.  As believers, we recognise that there are different types of illnesses.  Some are directly and only caused by germs.  Others are because partaking of a particular sin such as bitterness will cause our immune to be weakened.  Still others are because of inappropriately partaking of the sacraments as we read in I Corinthians.  We understand that there can either be a physical or a spiritual reason for sickness or a combination of the two when we fall ill.

Healing of Soul and Body

In these last two types of situations, we need healing of the soul, before the healing of the body can take place.  This full healing of both soul and body that we see in this passage shows the full likeness of the resurrection.  In the words of St. Ambrose

Alongside of healing the wounds of body and mind, he also forgives the sins of the spirits, removes the weakness of the flesh, and thus heals the whole person. It is a great thing to forgive people’s sins—who can forgive sins, but God alone? For God also forgives through those to whom he has given the power of forgiveness. Yet it is far more divine to give resurrection to bodies, since the Lord himself is the resurrection.2

We see then the point that Christ is trying to convey to the Pharisees and the other onlookers.  The healing of the body is the more divine action than the forgiving of sins.  He came and took our flesh to return life back into our race.  He has come to restore and resurrect, and forgiveness of sins is just a part of that.

I think that we, at least I have, been influenced by Gnosticism more than we realise.  I often think that the incarnation is the means to forgiveness of sins.  While Scripture and the fathers teach that Christ became incarnate to restore the creation.  Forgiveness and a restored relationship with God are only a part of that full restoration.  In St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, he states that the creation itself will be delivered from corruption along with us.

Who Can Forgive Sins?

The Pharisees raised a very good question.  God is the only one who can forgive sins.  (God does forgive through others.  We will talk about that in a little bit).  He received testimony from the Pharisees albeit unwillingly that He is God.  He is forgiving sin; therefore, He is God.

St. Ambrose said that it is a great madness that while they confess that God alone can forgive sins, they refuse to believe God when He says that He forgives sins.  However, they gave it and whether they believed it or not, Christ takes this witness from them.

From this point of admission, the burden was upon Christ to show whether he could forgive sin.  Forgiving sin would be the evidence that He is God.  Failure to do so would show that He is merely a man.  Therefore, He quickly healed what was visible to confirm that He had forgiven the sins which were not visible.

Forgiveness Entrusted to the Apostles

He forgives sins as the incarnate God.  However, we also have received from Him this privilege and admirable grace as well.  In taking our flesh, He has crowned human nature with great honour, so that He has said to His Holy Apostles,

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

And again,

If you forgive sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

We must remember and take note of when He said these things to the Holy Apostles.  It was not until after He had trampled on the power of death and risen from the grave.  He then breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit.  It is only after the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit that they were given the authority to forgive sins.

We learn from this first, that at the time of the healing of the paralytic that God was the only one who could forgive sins.  Second, today, that God can forgive sins through those who have been given this authority by Him.

Finally, the paralytic is commanded to take up his mat and go home completely healed.  We also are to take up our mat after our soul is healed.  This is the bed that the prophet David washed with tears every night.  It is the bed upon which our soul lay sick with the cruel torment of conscience.

In this Lenten season, we are making a conscious effort to see where we need to repent.  We are looking to see if our soul is sick with conscience and we are washing our bed with tears.  God in His mercy looks upon us and will heal us that our bed of tears may become a bed of rest.  As the paralytic returned home after being healed, so our soul after being healed has the way opened to return to paradise.

Applications

Let us purpose when we are discouraged to find a brother or a sister to pray for us.  When we see our brothers and sisters discouraged, we must be proactive in praying for them.

Let us also look to the teachers of the Church for instruction.  There is no shortage of resources for this.  First, we can look to those who have walked with Christ for a good while and have instruction for us.  Many of the writings of the Church Fathers are available online.  There is also the Catena App that you can download on your phone and read the teachings of the Church from the beginning into the 19th century.  We must purpose to learn from the instruction that have gone before, as we seek to develop our faith.

We need to especially during this season of Lent but also throughout the year to look to our lives.  If there is need of repentance, let us be quick to do that and then ask for God’s healing to our souls.

Let us as often as we see God heal someone, remember to praise Him that this is proof that He forgives our sins as well.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Fr. Matthew

1 Thomas C. Oden and Peter J. Gorday, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), ?

2 https://www.catenabible.com/lk/5/20

Homily on St. John 2:1-11

miracle of the wine

St. John 2:1-11

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

Lent

We have entered a new season of the Church this morning – the season of Lent in which we prepare for Easter.  Lent will last forty days until March 26th and will be followed by the fasting periods of Lazarus Saturday and Holy Week.  This period of forty days was already part of  Church practise during the time of St. Irenaeus who lived in the second century.

During this time, we are to look to our lives and examine what needs to be repented of in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.  We also take this time to spend more time in prayer and use the money that we save in giving alms.

The Miracle of the Wine in Cana

We begin Lent by looking at the wedding in Cana.  It happened on the third day.  This third day the fathers take with great significance.  First of all, three speaks of the Trinity and it was also on the third day that Christ was raised from the dead and His spouse the Church was created.

This miracle being the first is significant in its placement as Eusebius of Caesarea points out that in the Greek version of Isaiah 9 the prophecy reads,

Drink this first.  Act quickly, land of Zebulon and Naphtali, Galilee of the Gentiles.”  And the miracle was a sign of the mystic wine – that wine of faith of the new covenant that is transformed from bodily joy to a joy of mind and spirit.

Prophecy Fulfilled

First, the water is turned into wine and then His ministry begins.  He went to the wedding to give wine and not to drink it.  His ministry from the beginning was for others.  If we look back a little into the previous chapter, we see that Christ has been declared the Lamb of God by St. John the forerunner and has received His first disciples.

So then, we see the establishment of who Christ is followed by the fulfillment of prophecy.  In the orchestration of this miracle, we see also an example of the ministry of the Theotokos.  She intercedes with Christ for this family because they have run out of wine.  Whether this family asked her, or she did it on her own, it shows that the Theotokos cares enough for our needs to ask her Son.  Therefore, we should be bold in asking her to pray for us.

Ministry of the Theotokos

In the first miracle, the ministry of the Theotokos is integral in it being accomplished.  We see honour being given to her in the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  In fact the term that some of the fathers use in this situation is that Christ venerated Mary in His giving honour to her in this miracle.

Jesus responds to His mother’s request with the words, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?  My hour is not yet come.”  In the narrative the fathers point out that the Theotokos is referred to as mother, but in Jesus’ response He calls her woman.  Why is this?

The term mother points to Jesus’ humanity.  We call her Theotokos or Mother of God because we are recognising that through the Virgin Mary, God took on humanity.  His use of the word woman reminds us that He is the creator both of Mary and of all things.  It is as the Son of God rather than as the Son of Man that He is able to work this miracle.

God took on our humanity, but His miracles of healing, multiplying food, walking on water etc. is a function of His divinity.  He is bringing the power of God into the physical world through his union with the flesh.  These miracles show first of all His love for mankind and second that God has united with man.

He states that His hour has not yet come, but as we have read the passage this morning, we see that He does indeed accomplish it.  Why does He say this and why does He change the water into wine afterwards?  He says this because everything that God does is in  a planned order.

Reasons for the Miracle

There are two reasons why he performs the miracle.  First, to demonstrate to all who observed it that while He ordered all events, He was greater than that order.  He was the creator of the order, so it was subject to Him rather than Him being subject to it.  He had the freedom to adjust it.

Second, to show that the greatest honour is to be given to parents.  He out of reverence for His mother, did what He had not yet willed to do.  This miracle was a full transformation of water into wine as St. Hilary of Poitiers explains,

It was not a mixture, but a creation: the simple nature of water vanished, and the flavour of wine was produced; not that a weak dilution was obtained, by means of some strong infusion, but that which was, was annihilated; and that which was not, came to be.1

Others among the fathers point out that these vessels were used for water.  There is no room left for trickery.  It is like Elijah preparing the altar by pouring water on it.  For there to be fire then and wine here, it had to be a miracle.

Spiritual Allegory of the Miracle

A physical miracle happened.  However, there is much spiritual significance and allegory that the fathers see in this miracle.  First, it brings men out of spiritual apathy, when they see the power of God and causes them to worship Him.  Through this miracle the glory of God was manifested.  I’ll explain how it was manifested in a little bit.

Second, these water pots were normal water pots, but in them water was turned into wine.  In the same way the Theotokos was a normal human being, but in her womb the nature of the Son was transformed into humanity so that He is now fully God and fully man.

Third, the water pots gave birth to wine just once.  This miracle only ever happened once.  In the same way the Virgin conceived and gave birth to Emmanuel and did not give birth again.

Fourth, it points towards our Lord’s death and resurrection.  He was placed in the tomb dead and came out of it alive.

Fifth, it is a picture of Christ pouring His teaching into the Jews during His ministry.  Then after His resurrection, when He opened the eyes of His disciples to what was written in the law and prophets was the wine being poured out for all of the Church to enjoy.  The Scriptures without Christ understood in them is tasteless like water, but when He is understood in them then it is as tasteful as wine.

Sixth, our weak and fickle wills are like water before they are transformed by the grace of God.  Once we were driven and tossed by every doctrine, but now through having been changed by Christ, we have body and strength.  Our will is no longer as St. John Chrysostom puts it washy.  It is solid and able to lay hold of Christ.

Glory Manifested

At the end of this story, we read that Jesus manifested His glory and His disciples believed in Him.  The fathers take a look at this and say, “Who saw His glory manifested?”  Presumably, the feast had been drunk dry so probably most of the guests were not in a condition to notice this miracle.  Further, it was only the servants and disciples who saw it take place and the ruler of the feast who noticed.  St. John Chrysostom sums it up,

He manifested it at least for His own part, and if all present hear not of the miracle at the time, they would hear of it afterwards, for unto the present time it is celebrated, and has not been unnoticed. That all did not know it on the same day is clear from what follows, for after having said that He manifested forth His glory, the Evangelist adds,

And His disciples believed on Him.2

It is manifested or made known through the testimony of the disciples and the Church through the centuries.  St. Cyril of Alexandria of this miracle says,

Many most excellent things were accomplished at once through the one first miracle. For honourable marriage was sanctified, the curse on women put away (for no more in sorrow shall they bring forth children, now Christ has blessed the very beginning of our birth), and the glory of our Saviour shone forth as the sun’s rays, and more than this, the disciples are confirmed in faith by the miracle.3

Divinity of Christ

What was it that the disciples believed?  St. Maximus of Turin tells us that it was not what the disciples could see happening that caused them to believe but what could not be seen by physical eyes.  This did not cause them to believe in the Virgin birth because that was something that they already knew.

Instead, this caused them to believe in the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God.  This miracle proves that Christ is both the Son of Man (He has a mother) and that He is the Son of God (He can do wonders).  St. Maximus concludes,

Let us believe not only that He shared our nature but also that He was consubstantial with the Father; for as a man He was present at the wedding, and as God He changed the water into wine.  If such is our faith, the Lord will give us also to drink of the sobering wine of His grace.4

Application

Let us purpose to embrace this season of Lent by spending time in repentance, prayer, and looking for ways to give.

We ought to praise God that through this first miracle the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled.

As we saw in this passage, the Theotokos interceding for the family of the wedding, let us also ask her to pray for us.  There is an Orthodox prayer that states, “The intercessions of a mother have great effect to win the favour of the master.”  We saw the truth of that in this passage.  This whole miracle took place because of her intercession.

To ask her to pray for you is quite simple.  In the western tradition a request to her has been passed down, that you will often hear sung in Latin around Christmas, but the English words are:

Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Glory Be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Also, as she is the mother of our Saviour, let us follow His example and venerate and honour her.  My particular background was that anything to do with the Blessed Virgin Mary was looked upon with suspicion to the extent that her role was downplayed, however, let us follow the example of Jesus in honouring her.  Let us follow the example of Elizabeth and bless her.

Finally, let us believe today as we confessed in the Nicene Creed that Christ is both the essence of God and Incarnate of the Virgin Mary.  Finally, let us with the Church proclaim this first miracle that manifested the glory of Christ.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

~ Fr. Matthew

 

Footnotes

David, Gérard, ca. 1460-1523. Miracle at Cana, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46657 [retrieved May 2, 2019].

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

4 Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Homily on St. John 5:30-47

St. John 5:30-47

Barekmor

Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit

The Father and the Son

Jesus can do nothing of His own.  This is not because Christ does not have the power to do it Himself, but to show that there is only one Godhead.  It is to show that the will of the Son and the will of the Father are one and the same.

Furthermore, He was made a man in the incarnation and took the form of a servant.  In His humanity, He is under law, He is under God.  He is subject to the Father in the capacity of His humanity.  If the Father desires something, then the Son being subject to Him desires it as well.  They are one Godhead with one purpose.

St. John the Forerunner

The only begotten Son of God says, “I seek not my own will.”  Is this our attitude?  Speaking for myself, we often seek our own will.  We want our own way and will do everything we can do attain it.  However, the Son humbles himself and seeks the will of the Father.  Let us follow His example and do the will of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the Trinity has one will, power and majesty.

Jesus appeals to the witness of St. John the Forerunner and yet He says, “I do not receive testimony from man.”  Why does He appeal to a man then?

First, John was sent from God, so the words he spoke were from God.  In just the same way as Moses and all the prophets bore witness from God to Christ.  Therefore, the testimony of John and all the prophets is the testimony of God not man.

Second, it is because of the mercy of God.  The people respected John as a trustworthy source and as a prophet.  They believed the words that John spoke, so God bore witness through the instrument that they believed.

Lamps Vs. Light

St. John the Forerunner was a burning lamp.  In fact, the Holy Apostles and indeed all people are lamps St. Augustin tells us.  We are lamps because we can both be lighted and extinguished.  If we trust and follow Christ we are lit, if we turn away, we can be extinguished.

In comparison, Christ is not a lamp but a light.  For He cannot be lit or extinguished like us.  He is always shining.  Just as the Father has life in Himself, He has given to the Son to have life in Himself.

The Works of Christ

In our passage today, there are four testimonies about Christ – God the Father, John the Baptist, His own works, and the 1st Testament Scriptures.  In verse 36, we are looking at the works.

The Only begotten, appeals that the proof of His Sonship is that He has done the works of His Father.  This is an appeal to the power of God and not just the name of God.  He does the works of His Father as these people have seen and we have read numerous times throughout the Gospels.

St. Hilary asks the question which you may have asked yourself what do these works prove?  They prove that He was sent.  Notice that He isn’t doing His own works, but the works of His Father.

His being sent and doing the works proves a second point.  It proves His Son-like obedience to the Father and the authority of His Father.  These works can only be accomplished by One who is sent by the Father.

Never Seen God?

Jesus states that the Jews here had never heard the voice of God or seen His form.  However, we know from having read the 1st Testament that God has appeared to Abraham, Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah and so on and so forth.  What does He mean here?

First, He is not speaking of seeing God in literal sense but more of a philosophical sense, but we’ll get to that shortly.  Second, In St. John 1:18 we have another statement, “No one has seen God at any time”.

No One Has Seen God

It is a valid point that no one has seen God, but it is not the point of our passage this morning. However, in the 1st Testament when God appears, it is God the Son and not God the Father who is appearing.

In the Theotokos and Pantocrator icons, we can see God the Son depicted not God the Father.  In my home, I have an icon of the Holy Trinity which has three figures.  I was curious and wondered who was who, and I found out that you don’t depict God the Father in icons.  Each figure represents a person of the Holy Trinity, but you don’t get any more specific than that.

The Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit

To sum up God the Father is only seen through God the Son.  No one has seen God the Father but the Son has explained Him.

What Does it Mean to See God?

Back to the context of Jesus speaking to these particular Jews.  St. John Chrysostom explains,

He [Christ] means to impress upon them the philosophical understanding that God has neither voice nor shape but is superior to such modes of speaking about Him.  For as in saying, “You have never heard His voice,” He does not mean to say that He has a voice but that they cannot hear it.  And also when He says, “Nor have they seen His form, “ no tangible, sensible or visible shape is implied to belong to God….But why, He says, do I bring these things up?  I do so because not only have you never heard His voice or seen His shape, but it is not even in your power to assert what you are most proud and assured of: that you received and kept His commandments.1

Therefore, to hear and to see God is to receive the commandments and to live them.  It is to read the Scriptures and the Fathers and to follow the instruction that they have given.  It is not necessarily to physically see or hear God.  When our manner of life changes, then we know that we have seen and heard God.

The Witness of Scripture

Jesus then moves from speaking of the form of God to speaking of His Word.  The Word of God who is Christ incarnate is the image, expression, and form of His Father.  The Jews did not receive Jesus who spoke to them and thus they also did not receive the written word – the Holy Scriptures.

The Fathers tell us that the Pharisees liked to think that the Divine Word was with them and that they had come to a greater level of knowledge.  However, their rejection of Jesus as Christ was proof that they had not truly received the Divine Word of God.  Let us take this as a warning, lest we also fall into this trap and think that just because we know the Holy Scripture, we know God.

St. John Chrysostom sums up the problem and failure that the Pharisees had,

It was not even in their power to assert what they boasted the most about, that is, that they had received and obeyed God’s command….Although God instituted them, you do not have them.  For if the Scriptures everywhere tell you to believe in me and you still do not believe, it is clear that His Word has departed from you.2

The Necessity of Finding Christ in the Scriptures

They search the Scriptures, Jesus says.  This is the very thing that they should be doing.  We are not to just have a cursory knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, but we are to search them.  However, in their searching they had missed Christ.

The Holy Scriptures were given to them and to us because we were not present when God spoke to Moses or any of the prophets.  They were given so that we could read the testimony of the Father and the Prophets of Christ.

By light we see light, the Holy Scriptures tell us.  In the same way, in the spiritual realm, we are able to see God who is light through the light of the Holy Scriptures.  Additionally, we are able to see His justice which is filled with light.

Furthermore, the effort that it takes for us to read and search the Holy Scriptures benefits our prayer life.  We have a more fervent love for God after we have spent time reading and been purified through meditation.  God fills us with joy as we spend more time with Him, and this is revealed as we pray afterwards.

The Jews and the Pharisees did not receive Him, and He states that He does not receive honour from men.  St. John the forerunner commended and testified of Him which He did receive.  The difference is stated in verse forty-two – they did not have the love of God in them.

The love of God changes the honour that we give from the honour of men to the testimony of God.  In these verses, Jesus is not reproving them for not giving Him honour but rather for not having the love of God in them.

Oneness of the Godhead

Here in the last few verses of the passage, we circle back to the oneness of the Godhead.  Christ comes in the name of the Father.  This means that He is not the same person as the Father and yet He has the same essence of the Father.

In the last couple of verses, Christ tells us in the clearest way that the writings of Moses are His words.  St. Irenaeus tells us that from this we can know without any shadow of a doubt that the words of all the other prophets are His words as well.  We briefly discussed this toward the beginning of the passage – the testimony of the prophets is the testimony of God.  It is not the testimony of men.

Finally, St. Augustin tells us that Christ is hidden under the mysteries of the law and the prophets in much the same way as a seed is hidden in its husk or shell.  It needs to be shelled to receive the benefit of it.  In the same way the Scripture needs to be searched, expounded and explained to receive the truth of it.

Application

I would encourage you to recite the Nicene creed on a daily basis which affirms that the Father and the Son are the same essence.  From my understanding, our Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters declare it at least twice daily.

We must also imitate the humility of Christ.  He always sought to do the will of His Father.  We must also follow suit and do the will of God.  If you are unsure of what the will of God is, read through the Gospels and the book of Acts as a starting point and follow the commands and examples that are there.  I remember an older believer repeatedly telling a group of young people that I was a part of that God will not tell you anything new to do before you are faithful in what He has already given you.

We are lamps.  Let us seek to do the will of God that we might be lit and never extinguished.

Jesus tells us in Matthew five that the pure in heart see God.  Are we seeing and hearing God?  That is, are we following  what we have read and heard in Christian instruction?  If there is something that you are having difficulty following, please speak with your priest or a spiritual mentor.

Let us seek to know God through the Holy Scriptures.  We must not be satisfied with a knowledge of know the truth, but me must press on to know God fully and intimately.

Finally, we ought to seek to maintain the love of God in us.  If we find we have lost that love, we must do everything in our power to reclaim it.  There may be times when we may not have desire to read and search the Holy Scriptures, but we must keep on because love is not an emotion but a way of life.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Fr. Matthew

Footnotes

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?

Joel C. Elowsky and Thomas C. Oden Editors, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IVa (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), ?