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Saturday, April 18, 2020

    “He who shut in the depths is beheld dead, / Wrapped in fine linen and spices. / The Immortal One is laid in a tomb as a mortal man. / The women have come to anoint Him with myrrh, / Weeping bitterly and crying: / ‘This is the most blessed Sabbath / On which Christ has fallen asleep. He will rise on the third day!’” (Byzantine Kontakion-hymn of Holy Saturday)

     Today, on this “most blessed Saturday,” Christ “sleeps” in the Tomb, while those who buried Him “rest,” according to the commandment.” (Lk 23: 56) But the silence of Holy Saturday is packed with invisible, life-giving activity, as the Maker of all things visible “and invisible” is busy at work, “shutting in the depths.” What does that mean?

     As He is “beheld dead,” buried in the depths of the earth, His work...

Friday, April 17, 2020

    “He has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty. But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, so that his face was turned away: he was dishonoured, and not esteemed. He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction. But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement/teaching of our peace (παιδεία εἰρήνης ἡμῶν) was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. All we as sheep (ὡς πρόβατα) have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins. And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he...

Thursday, April 16, 2020

    “When he (Judas) had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” (Jn 13: 31-35)

     There is so much to contemplate, on this Holy and Great Thursday, the day of the Lord’s Mystical Supper, at which He establishes a “new covenant” with us (Mk 14: 24), and also foretells Peter’s denial of Him (Jn 13:...

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

    “In envy the priests and scribes cunningly gathered a council against You, Saviour, moving Judas to betrayal. He shamelessly went forth and spoke against You, saying to a transgressing people: What will you give me if I deliver Him into your hands? From his condemnation save our souls, O Lord!” (Kathisma-Hymn, Matins of Holy & Great Tuesday)

     What is the point of our Church’s hymnography this week, when it bemoans the sins of the “bad guys” in the story of Christ’s passion, – the “Orthodox” Jewish religious establishment of that time, the priests and scribes, and Judas, one of the twelve (and also Jewish) disciples? Is it our point to shake an antisemitic finger at Jews, or to place responsibility for the Lord’s crucifixion at the feet of all Jewish people, or even only at the...

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those...

Monday, April 13, 2020

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant. ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him. ‘Yes,’ replied Jesus, ‘have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?’ And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ Immediately the tree withered.” (Mt 21: 14-19)

     O...

Saturday, April 11, 2020

 “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and l...

Thursday, April 9, 2020

 “A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked are sin. The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, but those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.” (Prov 21: 4-5)

     Throughout our Lenten journey, for almost six weeks now, we have had a reading at weekday-Vespers from the most “practical” book of the Bible, Proverbs. These readings, (including the one quoted above, which was read this Tuesday), offer me practical, “how to” bits of ancient wisdom, on wise and healthy living. We have these readings specifically during Lent, because Lent is, among other things, a time of both physical and spiritual renewal; of healthy work-habits, eating-habits, praying-habits, resting-habits, and healthy “plan-making” for all this, on a daily basis. And I’m finding them particu...

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

 “…Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” (Jn 11: 11-16)

     The above-quoted conversation happens “today” (in liturgical time), and two days after Jesus was informed that His friend, Lazarus, had fallen ill back in Bethany. So, “today” Lazarus dies, and four days from now, on Saturday, the Lord will raise hi...

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

 “Rejoice, O un-wedded (without-a-bridegoom) Bride! / Χαίρε, Νύμφη Α-νύμφευτε. / Радуйся, Невесто не-невестная.” (Refrain, Akathist-Hymn of the Theotokos)

     In this Akathist-Hymn, we praise the Theotokos not only for who/what she “is“ and “has,“ but also for what she is “not,“ i.e.,“wedded,“ and what she does “not“ have, which is a spouse or bridegroom. Hence we praise her as “Α-νύμφευτε,” or one “without a bridegroom” (without a “νυμφίος“).

     Is this cause for celebration, the fact that the Most-Holy Theotokos had “no bridegroom,” in the usual sense, in her specific vocation, of bringing our Lord into the world? Yes, apparently so, as this particular fact is praised repeatedly, in the refrain of the Akathist-Hymn. Because it was hard to be alone, as the only (human) parent...

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