The Hour Of Victory

Let all pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late; for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness. Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Saviour has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaias foresaw all this, he cried out: “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world.” Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive. It seized a body, and, lo! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

(John Chrysostom’s Paschal Homily)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;
    he makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I fear no evil;
for thou art with me;
    thy rod and thy staff,
    they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
thou anointest my head with oil,
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    for ever.

(Psalm 23)

 

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Guarding The Stone… And Heart

Holy Saturday is a day like no other. Not exactly a day of mourning, and not exactly a day of joy. Rather, the day seems to me to be quite like a rather long instance of holding one’s breath. It is a day of waiting, where Creation itself pauses in anticipation of what is to come.

Interestingly, there is only one short Gospel passage which addresses this day, from Matthew:

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

(Matthew 27:62-66)

It makes sense that Matthew’s Gospel would address this, however. It was written primarily for a Jewish audience, and so those who heard the Gospel would have had questions. They would have heard what the Jewish leaders later said about these events, and so we have this passage here to help explain it. Coupled with the other parts, of course, after the resurrection.

What is important to note, though, is that the Jewish leaders  and Pharisees set a seal on the stone. The stone was not the stone that bound Jesus, however. It was the stone that was their heart. They had closed themselves off to the power and mercy of God. And they let nothing attempt to break through to reach them. Let us not follow in their example.

 

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Inconvenience and Deliverance

12 “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.
13 He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
14 He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;
15 the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.
16 We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.
17 Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
18 for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.
19 Let us test him with insult and torture,
so that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hoped for the wages of holiness,
nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
23 for God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.

(Wisdom 2:12-24)

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
    and by night, but find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
    in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm, and not human;
    scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
    they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
“Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
    let him rescue the one in whom he delights!”

Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
    you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
10 On you I was cast from my birth,
    and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls encircle me,
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my mouth[a] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs are all around me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me.
My hands and feet have shriveled;[b]
17 I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my clothes among themselves,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away!
    O my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my life[c] from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!

From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued[d] me.
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;[e]
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
    stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he did not despise or abhor
    the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,[f]
    but heard when I[g] cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
26 The poor[h] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before him.[i]
28 For dominion belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 To him,[j] indeed, shall all who sleep in[k] the earth bow down;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    and I shall live for him.[l]
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord,
31 and[m] proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
    saying that he has done it.

(Psalm 22)

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #141

Today marks both Palm Sunday and the Annunciation. This is altogether fitting, as both are days of heralding what is to come. We enter now Holy Week, a week marked by both triumph and tragedy. The passages for today are easy enough to guess ahead of time:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38)

Yet more triumph awaits:

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

(Luke 19:28-40)

But as I mentioned earlier, this is also a week of tragedy. And it is altogether fitting that the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem should transition quickly into a tale of tragedy:

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

(Luke 19:41-44)

Thinking on it, it occurs to me that in many respects all of Creation was waiting for this week since the  beginning. Indeed, one might argue that Creation was made for this week, as it would restore what had been lost.

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Lazarus Saturday

Holy Week is about to begin. But before it does, we remember one of the most important events in the ministry of Jesus.

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

(John 11:1-45)

John’s Gospel was written last, and it is important to keep that in mind. Nothing ended up in there by accident. John knew of the other Gospels, and so included what he felt was necessary to achieve his purpose with his Gospel. More than a recounting of the life of Jesus, John’s Gospel is highly theological in nature. It is also a response to many of the concerns, questions and difficulties that the early Church had faced.

The Bread of Life discourse was written to make clear the True Presence, the beginning of his Gospel made clear that Jesus was God from all time, and the mention of the piercing of Jesus’s side in the Passion made it clear that Jesus died on the cross, and died of crucifixion. Here John mentions the raising of Lazarus for another clear purpose.

Lazarus hadn’t simply died. He had died and been buried. More than that, enough time had passed, 4 days, that his body would have begun to decompose. This is why there is mention of the stench by Martha. The other people whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospels were not dead nearly so long. The young man at Nain had yet to be buried, and the young girl was dead perhaps only minutes, or maybe an hour or two. But this is four days later. Yet, despite the fact that Lazarus’s body was beginning to decay, Jesus commanded he come out of the tomb, and he did just that. Things like early decay mean nothing to God.

This is a message for all of us- not to fear the decay of this world. And to be assured that the resurrection is real, and will happen to those who are faithful. No matter the conditions are bodies may be in, God can and will raise us up. This, I think, is why John included this passage in his Gospel. He was answering the concerns of those who were wondering how a bodily resurrection could work after decay set in. St. Paul had already answered those questions in a letter to the Corinthians, but they would of course have persisted. Hence why John brings us the story of Lazarus, and the other Gospels don’t. We find in this passage a great reassurance for us, and so this is a special day to thank the Lord, and be mindful that death is not the end.

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Masculine Monday- To Command And Obey

It has been a long while since I wrote one of these post, and thus long overdue. Today I want to examine the subject of authority and leadership as it relates to masculinity.

Before I continue, I would direct my reader’s attention to this post by Cane Caldo. It helped stimulate the present post.

I believe that one of the essential qualities that makes a man a man is his ability to function effectively within a hierarchical structure. It is his ability to lead others below him in authority, in subjection, and his ability to follow orders of those in authority above him. In my opinion a man is not a man unless he is firmly capable of both task.

To Command and Obey go hand in hand.

From my experience, most men who come across as unmanly fail in at least one, if not both, of those areas. When it comes to authority, they come across either as weak or overbearing. And when it comes to obedience, they are either rebellious or spineless drones without initiative.

Creating proper men, that is, instilling in them the essence of command and obedience, must start at an early age. Deviations from acceptable behavior must be spotted and corrected. Creating a man is not an instant process, nor an automatic one. It can, I think, be likened to the forging of a sword- a process which takes time, patience and hard work. Yet the end result is a sharp tool, waiting to be used.

Unfortunately we don’t have the structures in place anymore for this transformation to take place on a mass scale. Point in fact, we have been actively working to dismantle them for generations. And that process yet continues.

So it is up to individuals and small groups to continue this essential work. Men who are fathers of boys are especially demanded upon. Most of the work is up to them- and in a hostile work environment, no less.

I would like my readers, especially fathers, to give their thoughts on the subject. Both in terms of general views on whether I am right or not, and also as to specifics on how to achieve this.

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Lenten Update

I meant to get this post up earlier, but alas, I have been very busy “in the real world.” This Lent I am not going to opt out of the ‘sphere, however, I will likely have a small presence. This owes to work, life, etc. So posting may happen, but only as time permits.

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