Selected Sunday Scriptures- #79

Ace’s most recent post got me thinking about the human heart. The obvious verse from Scripture that my mind was drawn towards was that famous one from the Prophet Jeremiah:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately corrupt;
    who can understand it?

(Jeremiah 17:9)

This verse has been demonstrably proven time and time again. Yet it is one that we, even among the faithful, seem to constantly forget. Even now many who would call themselves Christians would no doubt defend the statement “The Heart Wants What it Wants.” How easily they forget (ignore?) the words of our Savior, who warned us that:For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21). If someone does naught but gather material pleasures, then it is in the material world where that person’s heart will be found. He also warned us that:

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

(Matthew 6:24)

Either our heart is for God, and we accumulate spiritual treasure, or our heart is for the world (and its dark master), and we accumulate only material “treasures.”

While on the subject of masters, I wanted to briefly note that this applies to some of the ideas expressed in Dalrock’s most recent post. Those “Christian” leaders that Dalrock mentions have replaced God as the Master to be served. In His place we have worship of Romantic Love. Specifically, Romantic Love as defined by The Woman (whomever she happens to be). In a twist of fate that seems disturbingly appropriate, it only goes to accord the Prophet Isaiah:

My people—children are their oppressors,
    and women rule over them.
O my people, your leaders mislead you,
    and confuse the course of your paths.

(Isaiah 3:12)

I have more to say on Dalrock’s post later, but in the meantime I have a little more scripture to cover. Specifically, a section from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans:

As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.

One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. He also who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while he who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

12 So each of us shall give account of himself to God.

(Romans 14:1-12)

There are two components to this section that stand out- eating and the observation of days. From what I recall reading elsewhere, Saint Paul was addressing the Mosaic food laws and Liturgical calendar (the various Jewish feasts, etc). Note how it is not sinful to observe any of those old practices. But they are not mandatory either. Instead, St. Paul tells us to direct everything towards God. However, St. Paul is using very broad language here which seems to go beyond merely the Mosaic laws and traditions. What I am curious about is the Catholic/Orthodox theology on this section as it relates to liturgical calendars and various fasts. Specifically, I’m curious about Lent. Because this passage to me always seemed to make such observances optional, not mandatory, albeit highly encouraged. Are there any writings of the Saints on this matter? Would love to know more.



Filed under Selected Sunday Scriptures

3 responses to “Selected Sunday Scriptures- #79

  1. Mrs. C

    Based on Chrysostom’s homily on this passage, it seems to not have any larger meaning other than addressing new converts who are weak in their faith and not yet ready to live out from under the law and addressing those who are more advanced in the faith to not get hung up on disputing about it so as not to ruin those whose faith is weak.

    Chrysostom seems to make the case that those who eat meat and no longer follow the Law are the ones who are “in the right” but that it is no yet time to demand this of those whose faith is new and weak and are not yet ready to give it up.

    “And therefore I must first give the subject of the whole of this passage, and what he wishes to correct in writing this. What does he wish to correct then? There were many of the Jews which believed, who adhered of conscience to the Law, and after their believing, still kept to the observance of meats, as not having courage yet to quit the service of the Law entirely. Then that they might not be observed if they kept from swine’s flesh only, they abstained in consequence from all flesh, and ate herbs only, that what they were doing might have more the appearance of a fast than of observance of the Law. Others again were farther advanced, (τελειότεροι) and kept up no one thing of the kind, who became to those, who did keep them, distressing and offensive, by reproaching them, accusing them, driving them to despondency. Therefore the blessed Paul, out of fear lest, from a wish to be right about a trifle, they should overthrow the whole, and from a wish to bring them to indifferency about what they ate, should put them in a fair way for deserting the faith, and out of a zeal to put everything right at once, before the fit opportunity had come, should do mischief on vital points, so by this continual rebuking setting them adrift from their agreement in (ὁ μολογίας εἰς) Christ, and so they should remain not righted in either respect: ”

    The passage isn’t so much saying that it doesn’t matter what Law or lack thereof you follow as long as everything is done unto the Lord, so much as it’s speaking of not making it a point of dispute for those who are new to the faith. He asks For how can he that lives unto the Law, be living unto Christ? “As Chrysostom points out

    “But with the Romans, since it was not yet the proper time for setting things of this sort right, Let every man, he says, be fully persuaded in his own mind. For he had been speaking of fastin

    “As then he told the Galatians, As many of you as are justified by the Law are fallen from grace( Galatians 5:4); so here he hints it only, but does not unfold it so much. For as yet it was not time to do so. But for the present he bears with it: but by what follows he gives it a further opening. For where he says,

    “Ver. 7, 8. For none of us lives unto himself, and no man dies unto himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord, by this too he makes the same clearer. For how can he that lives unto the Law, be living unto Christ? But this is not the only thing that he effects by this, he also holds back the person who was in so much haste for their being set right, and persuades him to be patient, by showing that it is impossible for God to despise them, but that in due time He will set them right”

    “Ver 9 “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
    But this he says to make the Judaizer abashed, and to persuade him to call to mind the greatness of the benefit, and how that when dead he had come to be alive, and that there was nothing that he gained from the Law, and how that it would be the last degree of unfeelingness, to leave Him Who had shown so much care toward him, and run away back to the Law.”

    You can read the homily here

    Chrysostom has a homily on the beginning of the holy season of Lent in which he says

    “So naturally I myself arose this morning with more than the usual enthusiasm since I was to share with you this spiritual happiness and I wanted to become a herald for you of the approach of Lent — the medicine, I might say, for your souls. Like a loving father, you see, the Lord of us all, in his desire that we be cleansed of the sins we have committed with the passing of time, desired a remedy for us through holy fasting.

    So let no one be gloomy, no one look sullen, but exult and be glad, and glorify the guardian of our souls, who shows us the best way, and welcome with great joy his approach. Let the pagans be ashamed and the Jews dismayed to see the love revealed by our welcoming the approach of this season with such excitement, and let them learn through the experience of these things the extent of the difference between them and us. Let them designate as their feasts and festivals, drunkenness and all other kinds of licentious and shameful behavior, which is typical of them to wallow in, but let the church of God, unlike them, identify feasts with fasting, neglect of the appetite and all the virtues that accompany it. This, in fact, is a true feast, where there is saving of souls, where there is peace and harmony, where the harsh realities of daily life are missing, without tumult and din and the antics of good cooks and slaughter of brute beasts. Utter rest and quiet, love and joy, peace and gentleness, and a thousand other good things are the order of the day in place of that other behavior.”

  2. happyhen11

    “Lent — the medicine, I might say, for your souls. Like a loving father, you see, the Lord of us all, in his desire that we be cleansed of the sins we have committed with the passing of time, desired a remedy for us through holy fasting.”

    Thank you Mrs. C. This homily at the beginning of Lent coupled with his Paschal homily are a match set.

    “If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

    And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

    Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

    O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.” (The Catechetical Sermon of St. John Chrysostom as read during Matins of Pascha.)

    Give me the chills just reading it… it is so powerful.

    In the Romans passage, the part that strikes at my heart most: “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God”

    from St Theophan the Recluse in his book Unseen Warfare (an excellent book by the way)

    “Since the enemy watches you constantly, waiting for an opportunity to sow evil in you, be doubly watchful over yourself, lest you fall in the nets spread for you. As soon as he shows you some fault in your neighbor, hasten to repel this thought, lest it take root in you and grow. Cast it out, so that no trace is left in you, and replace it by the thought of the good qualities you know your neighbor to possess, or of those people generally should have. If you still feel the impulse to pass judgment, add to this the truth, that you are given no authority for this and that the moment you assume this authority you thereby make yourself worthy of judgment and condemnation, not before powerless men, but before God, the all-powerful Judge of all.

    This reversal of thoughts is the strongest means, not only for repelling accidental critical thoughts, but also for completely freeing yourself of this vice…

    Even if a person’s sin is not only obvious, but very grievous and comes from a hardened and unrepentant heart, do not condemn him, but raise your eyes to the wondrous and incomprehensible judgments of God; then you will see that many people, formerly full of iniquity, later repented and reached a high degree of sanctity, and that, on the other hand, others, who were on a high level of perfection, fell into a deep abyss. Take care, lest you also suffer this calamity through judging others.”

  3. Thank you, both of you, for your comments.

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