November 25, 2009

Zeal and Love

by Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili

"And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentile unto all men . . ." (II Timothy 2:24)

OUR PIOUS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, the laity in Christ, must also take care not to be led astray by the spirit of the world and to confuse imprudent zeal with the true spirit of evangelical love.

St. Nectarios of Aegina offers us, in just a few lines, an image of the true zealot of Christ:

"The zealot according to knowledge, motivated by the love of God and his neighbor, does all things with charity and self-effacement; he does nothing that might bring sorrow to his neighbor; such a zealot is enlightened by knowledge and nothing prompts him to deviate from what is morally right" (see Self-Knowledge, pp. 135-136).

The zealot blessed by Christ is a model for the true Christian, the principle characteristics of whom are fervent love for God and neighbor, gentleness, religious tolerance, forgiveness, graciousness of manner, and, in general, all of those fruits of one dwelling in the Holy Spirit.

By contrast, that unfortunate Christian who is inspired by zeal not according to knowledge is a "ruinous man" who literally turns the Gospel of Grace and love upside down.

Let us see how the saints of the Orthodox Church view the zealot whose zeal is not according to wisdom:

* his zeal is a "seductive fire, a consuming fire"
* "destruction comes forth from him and desolation follows in his wake"
* "he beseeches God to send down fire from Heaven and to devour all of those who do not embrace his principles and convictions"
* he is "characterized by hatred for those of other religions and confessions, envy and persistent anger, violent resistance to the true spirit of Divine law, an unreasonable obstinacy in defending his own views, a passionate zeal for prevailing in all things, the love of glory, quarrels, contention, and a love of turmoil" (St. Nectarios, ibid.).

Orthodox spirituality has always considered it essential that zeal go hand-in-hand with love, so as not to become deviant:

"Zeal for piety [or preserving the Church and Holy TraditionBMB] is a good thing, but when combined with love" (St. John Damascene, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. SCIV, col. 1436).

The magnificent epistle of St. Dionysios the Areopagite to the Monk Demophilos, in which he expounds in a God-inspired way on the subject of the extremes of importune zeal, shows that this "temptation" among the pious is ancient.

But now let us juxtapose with the demon of imprudent zeal the zealots of Patristic deity, calling to mind their Patristic precepts:

"We will not approve of your fits of rage, which are alien to genuine zeal ('unenviable impulses'), even if you should invoke Phineas and Elias a thousand times" (St. Dionysios the Areopagite, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. III, col. 1096C, "Epistle to Demophilos the Monk [or Therapeutes, a term used by St. Dionysios for a monastic]," 5).

Likewise, our Savior, through the Apostle Paul, "teaches us that we should educate with gentleness those who reject the teaching of God"; "for the ignorant need to be instructed, not punished, just as we do not chastise the blind, but lead them by the hand" (ibid.).

Let the pious Faithful never forget that the criterion of the genuineness of our love is not imprudent zeal, but withdrawal from all of our passions:

"Strive to love every man equally, and in short you will drive out all of your passions" (St. Thalassios, Philokalia, Vol. 2, p. 213, and Patrologia Graeca, Vol. XCI, col. 1441B).

Our zeal for piety, like every other spiritual endeavor, is of doubtful purity and genuineness if it does not incline the heart towards love and humility:

"For every pursuit and every endeavor involving great toil that does not end up in love and a contrite spirit is futile, and yields no profitable result" (St. Symeon the New Theologian, Catechesis I, Sources Chretiennes, Vol. 96, pp. 143-145).

Hence: "Zeal for piety is a good thing, but when combined with love!"

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 2 (1996).

November 17, 2009


Archbishop Averky of Syracuse

We are living in a strange time, when all the true and healthy Christian concepts are being replaced by false and deceitful concepts, discovered often with an evil intention with the undoubted intention, naturally, of drawing people away from the right path of a truly Christian life. In all of this there can be discerned some kind of rationally acting black hand which is working to bind people as tightly as possible to this temporary, earthly life by forcing them to forget the future life, the eternal life assuredly awaiting us all.

We must be clearly aware of the kind of time in which we live. Indeed, only a spiritually blind roan, or one who had already sold his soul to the enemies of our holy faith and Church, could fail to sense the spirit of the approaching Antichrist in everything which is now happening in the world. Of what sort of genuine union of all Christians in the spirit of Christian love can one speak now when the Truth is denied by almost everyone, when deceit is in control almost everywhere, when a genuinely spiritual life among people who call themselves Christians has dried up and been replaced by a carnal life, an animal life which has nonetheless been placed on a pedestal and concealed by the idea of pretended charity which hypocritically justifies any sort of spiritual excess, any sort of moral anarchy. Indeed it is from this that are derived all these numberless "balls," various kinds of "games," "dances" and amusements toward which, despite their immoral, anti-Christian nature, even my modern clergymen have a tolerant attitude, sometimes even organizing them themselves and participating in them.

A terrible, unrelieved, hopeless unscrupulousness has taken possession of many people. The true doctrine of the faith and the Church for which the first Christians died in such tortures has become a hollow sound for the majority of modern "Christians." They neither know this doctrine, nor do they desire to know it, for they are indifferent to it.

Dull, cold indifference to almost anything which bears the imprint of ideological content and seeking in everything only one's own personal advantage. This is the character of our time.

This lack of ideological content, this unscrupulousness accompanied by departure from the true faith and the Church and by indifference to them is the basic, fundamental sin of which we, Russian Orthodox Christians, must repent.

It is not for us to enjoy ourselves, to amuse ourselves, to dance on the grave of Russia, brought down to its deathbed by us, but rather to repent in tears, really to repent, as the Holy Church teaches us, with a firm intention to change our life radically, to renew our spirit.

As salt preserves food from decay and makes it healthful and pleasant to the taste, so too true Christians preserve the world from moral decay and facilitate its return to health. But if the salt "loses its savor," as the Gospel says, i.e. "loses its strength" (in the East there actually is a kind of salt which can lose its taste), then it becomes good for nothing except to be "thrown out to be trodden under foot of men" (cf. the Gospel reading for the third day of the feast of Pentecost, Matt. 5:31-3).

How terrible this is! And we find ourselves living in such times when the tendency dominating the world is directed toward making all Christians such "salt which has lost its savor," once it has abolished the true Church of Christ derived from the Holy Apostles and thus has deprived Christians of the grace of the Holy Spirit.

This is the so very fashionable, so-called "ecumenical movement," which is based tin the position that supposedly the true Church of Christ does not presently exist on earth and it is necessary to create it anew...through the unification of all Christians belonging to various "churches" and confessional associations and organizations; this will be done by various mutual concessions in matters of doctrine and the development of a new, common system of doctrine acceptable to all and, along with it, of course, a new world view.

And the opinion, extremely popular in our times, that "it's all the same which church you go to; after all, God is one" is in agreement with this tendency.

Yes! God is one, but, you know, He also gave us one faith; He created one Church for us, not many different faiths and "churches." This is confirmed by the holy Apostle Paul when he says, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," and so we Christians should form "one body and one spirit," as we are called to "in one hope of our calling" (Eph. 4:4-6).

If there is only one true faith and only one true Church, then as a consequence all other faiths and "churches" are false, not true. How then can anyone say that all faiths and "churches" are of equal value and that "it is all the same which church you go to."

Therefore one can and must speak not of the ecumenical unification of everyone for the creation of some new Church, but only of the restoration of union between all who have fallen away and the one true Church of Christ to which Christ the Savior Himself gave the great and sure promise that "the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18).

Oh, how great now is the dulling of conscience even of those people who consider themselves believers-the clouding of their minds and hearts, so that seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not hear, neither do they understand with their heart, as the holy prophet said (Isaiah 9:10).

This is the "hardening of hearts" of which he spoke.

But there is in our days an even more terrible phenomenon, encountered more and more often: a more or less conscious decision, for the sake of earthly goods and advantages, to serve the coming Antichrist.

This is the most extreme degree of falling away, from which it is very difficult to arise.

The fundamental task of the servants of the coming Antichrist is to destroy the old world with all its former concepts and "prejudices" in order to built in its place a new world suitable for receiving its approaching "new owner" who will take the place of Christ for people and give them on earth that which Christ did not give them ....

One must be completely blind spiritually, completely alien to true Christianity not to understand all this!

Zeal for God, zeal for the Truth is not "phariseeism," just as "humility" before the enemies of God, the enemies of the Church, before diabolical Evil, is not the true and saving humility of the Publican, but just destructive self-deception, leading to the depths of hell.

In our times, when there are such strong doubts about even the existence of Truth, when every "truth" is considered relative and it is considered proper for each person to hold to "his own truth," the struggle for the Truth acquires a particularly important meaning. And the person who does not sympathize with this struggle, who sees in it only a manifestation of "phariseeism" and suggests "humbling oneself" before Falsehood by falling away from the Truth, should naturally be recognized as a betrayer of the Truth, whoever he might be, whatever he might call or consider himself.

For us modern Christians faith, for the most part, is being divorced from life: we do not live in full agreement with the teachings and demands of our faith. Our faith so clearly and so definitely teaches us to renounce everything corruptible and earthly and to concentrate with all our thoughts and feelings on the incorruptible eternal life awaiting us. Theoretically, perhaps, we accept this (although of late there has appeared a special current of "neo-Christianity" which does not even want to accept this theoretically, but has thought up a completely new, heretofore unknown pseudo-Christian world view aimed at binding man more firmly to an earth which supposedly has been transfigured and sanctified by Christ's coming into the world), we admit the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, and the future life, but in practice we live and act as if none of this is to be expected and we have only to make ourselves comfortable here on earth by providing for ourselves all sorts of good things and conveniences. We do not really want to think about the death which unavoidably awaits every one of us and we do not prepare ourselves as we ought for the future eternal life before us.

Peace!.. peace!.. peace!.. is heard now from every side: "mutual disarmament!..peaceful coexistence!.. we shall struggle for peace!.. everyone in defense of peace!.." How wonderful it would be, what a bright and joyful future it would promise for mankind if only these appeals had in mind that peace of which the angels sang on the night of Christ's Birth: "glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men!" (Luke 2:14); if only it were that peace which the Savior Christ promised to His disciples at the Last Supper when He said, "My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you" (John 14:27); if only it were that "peace of God which passeth all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) which, at the Lord's command, the Apostles transmitted to the first Christians, which they were taught to seek (I Peter 3:11), and which they were encouraged to have with God and with all people (Rom. 5:1; 12:18). How gratifying it would be to hear them if these appeals came from people of whose sincerity we could not have the slightest doubt, whose words we could trust completely-from people who were really convinced that the highest good in life is precisely that peace-peace with God, peace with one's own conscience, and peace with one's neighbors in the name of God.

But alas! It is not of such peace that people are talking now. All these frequently unnatural and pompous speeches and at times hysterical cries for peace for the whole world come at the present time for the most part from people who are either far from true Christianity or are directly opposed to the Church-from people who do not live at peace with God and with their own consciences, but are filled with spite in their relations with their neighbors.

Can we believe in the sincerity of speeches about peace when they are pronounced by people who in principle deny faith in God and love for their neighbors and do not recognize the voice of conscience?

Can we believe that people are really working toward peace when with open and bold blasphemy they have declared war on God Himself and His Holy Church?

When quite recently they did not hide the fact that their aim was to "stir up a worldwide conflagration"? When they openly preach "class hatred" as the basis of their ideology and are not in the least ashamed to pour out whole oceans of blood and to exterminate millions of people just for the suspicion that they disagree with their ideology?

Can we likewise believe in the sincere love for peace of those who in their words unctuously and cloyingly preach "Christian love" and "total forgiveness," while in their actions they sow disturbances and discord and, by spreading lies and slander, create hostility and divisions, stirring people up against their neighbors? Can one in general believe that any sort of secure and reliable peace can be established on earth with the crude flouting of God's Truth, with the lies and hypocrisy which are so clearly characteristic of the life of modern mankind?

Where the Truth of God is lacking there cannot be genuine peace.

While struggling resolutely against the most minute manifestations of evil and sin in our own souls, let us not fear to uncover and point out evil everywhere where it is to be found in modern life-not from pride and self-love, but only out of love for the truth. Our chief task. in this evil time of lying shamelessness is to remain totally faithful and devoted to the genuine truth of the Gospel and to the author of our salvation, Christ, the Giver of life Who rose on the third day from the tomb, the Conqueror of hell and death.

One must know well and remember that Tolstoy's harmful doctrine of "non-resistance to evil" is completely foreign to true Christianity (by the way, this doctrine destroyed our unfortunate homeland, Russia, and plunged it into the terrible, bloody horrors of Bolshevism): no true Christian can be reconciled to evil, wherever and in whomever he might encounter it.

All true Christians throughout the whole history of the Church have followed the example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and have always condemned evil and struggled against it, even though this might cause them all sorts of severe deprivations and even cost them life itself.


From Stand Fast in Truth, the Works of Archbishop Averky, published by St. John of Kronstadt Press and distributed in part on the Internet by the Brotherhood of St. Niphon, New York and the Russian Orthodox Church St. Nicolas of Dallas, Texas

November 14, 2009

The Legion of Demons and Herd of Swine

Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 8:26-39
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

26-33. And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is across from Galilee. And when He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city a certain man, possessed by demons for a long time, who wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not. (For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For often times it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he broke the bands, and was driven by the demon into the wilderness.) And Jesus asked him, saying, What is thy name? And he said, Legion: because many demons were entered into him. And he besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. And there was there an herd of many swine feeding on the mountain: and they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. And He suffered them. Then went the demons out of the man, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were drowned.

See how the demon is torn between two wicked passions: impudence and fear. When he says, What have I to do with Thee? he shows the impudence of a shameless slave; when he says, I beseech Thee, he shows his fear. He was dwelling among the tombs because he wanted to instill in men the false suspicion that the souls of those who have died become demons. The demons ask not to be cast into the abyss, but that they be permitted to remain a while longer upon the earth. The Lord permits them to remain upon the earth so that they might fight and contend with men, and thus render men tested veterans. If man had no adversaries, there would be no struggles and contests; and if there were no contests, there would be no crowns of victory. There is a more spiritual sense which you should learn as well: the man who has demons within him and wears no garment and makes his home outside the house, is anyone who does evil and demonic deeds, who has stripped himself of his baptismal robe, and dwells outside the Church. Such a man is not worthy to enter into the Church, but instead he lives in the tombs of dead and rotting deeds, for example, in brothels and in the chambers of publicans and graft. These are indeed tombs of iniquity.

34-39. When they that fed them saw what was done, they fled, and went and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the demons were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the demons was healed. Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and He went up into the boat, and returned back again. Now the man out of whom the demons were departed besought Him that he might be with Him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done unto him.

When those who had been feeding the swine fled into the city, it became an opportunity for salvation for the Gadarenes, but they did not understand. They ought to have marvelled at the Saviour’s power and believed in Him. The Evangelist says that they besought Him to depart from them, instead of calling upon Him in supplication. They did this out of fear of suffering another loss like that of the swine. But the man who had been healed shows indisputable proof of his healing. That he had been healed in his mind is shown by the fact that he now both recognizes Jesus and begs His permission to be with Him. For he was afraid, it would seem, that the demons would again easily assault him when he was separated from Jesus. But the Lord shows him that even if he is not with Jesus, the Lord’s grace can shelter him from demonic attack. The Lord says to him, Return to thine own house, and tell what great things God hath done unto thee. By not saying, "what great things I have done unto thee," the Lord gives us an example of humility and teaches us that we should attribute all our accomplishments to God. But though the Lord had commanded him to tell what things God had done for him, he told instead what things Jesus had done for him, so great was his gratitude. Therefore when you do something good for someone, do not desire it to become public knowledge; but he who is the beneficiary of that good deed ought to be moved by gratitude to tell it to others, even though you do not want him to do so.

November 07, 2009

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 16:19-32
From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke
by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

19-22. And there was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain poor man named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried.

These words follow closely upon what was said before. Because the Lord first taught, above [Lk. 16:1-13], how we are to be good stewards of wealth, now He appropriately adds this parable which teaches the same thing through the example of the rich man. This is a parable and not, as some have foolishly imagined, something which actually occurred. For good things have not yet been allotted to the righteous, nor punishments to the sinners. The Lord, then, fashioned this story to teach those who show no mercy and give no alms what punishments await them, and to teach the suffering what good things they will enjoy on account of the sufferings they patiently endure in this life. The Lord gave no name to the rich man in this parable, because such a man is not worthy to be remembered by God by name. As the Lord says, through the prophet, nor will I make remembrance of their names through My lips. [Ps. 15:3] But the Lord mentions the poor man by name, for the names of the righteous are inscribed in the Book of Life. There is a story, according to the tradition of the Hebrews, of a certain Lazarus who lived at that time in Jerusalem, whose lot was one of extreme poverty and sickness. Because he was so well known in the city, the Lord uses his name in the parable. The rich man was awash in wealth, so much so that he clothed himself in purple and costly linen. Not only this, but he also luxuriated in every other kind of luxury. For it says that he fared sumptuously, not now and then, but everyday, and not in moderation, but sumptuously, meaning, extravagantly and at great cost. But Lazarus was destitute and grievously diseased, for it says that he was full of sores. It is one thing to be ill; it is another thing to be covered with open sores. But the evil which he suffered goes even further: lying at the gate of the rich man, he had the added torment of seeing others feasting to excess while he himself starved. He desired to be fed, not with their costly foods, but with the crumbs of these foods, the same crumbs which the dogs ate. He was also destitute of any help, for the dogs licked his sores, and he had no one to drive them away. Lazarus suffered such terrible things. Did he then blaspheme? Did he revile the luxury of the rich man? Did he condemn his callousness? Did he accuse the Divine Providence? He did none of these things, even in thought; rather, he bravely and wisely endured all. How do we know this? From the fact that the angels took him when he died. If he had been a grumbler and blasphemer, he would not have been deemed worthy of such an honor—to be escorted by angels. The rich man also died, and was buried. In truth, while he still lived his soul had been buried alive, entombed within his flesh. Therefore, when he died, his soul was not led away by the angels but was instead borne downwards into hades. He who has never had a single lofty or heavenly thought deserves the lowest place. Thus by saying that he was buried, the Lord implies that the rich mans soul received its portion in the lowest and darkest place.

23-26. And in hades he lift up hise yes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,that he may dipthe tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou arttormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

When the Lord cast Adam out of paradise He settled him in a place just opposite, so that the continuous sight of paradise before his eyes would keep fresh in his mind the calamity that had befallen him and would arouse in him a sharper sense of his fall from good things. In like manner the Lord condemned the rich man to a place just opposite Lazarus, so that the sight of him in such a blessed state might awaken in the rich man the realization of the good things he lost because of his cruelty. Why was it that he saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham, and not of any other of the righteous? Because Abraham showed hospitality to strangers. The rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham as a reproof of his own inhospitality. Abraham used to draw into his own house even those who were just passing by, while the rich man overlooked a man who was lying every day within his very courtyard. And why does the rich man address his words to Abraham, and not to Lazarus? Perhaps he was ashamed. It may be that he judged Lazarus to be no different than himself and therefore assumed that Lazarus would bear a grudge for past wrongs. "If I, while enjoying such great prosperity, overlooked him while he was suffering such great afflictions, and did not even give him the crumbs from my table, how much more will he who was thus despised now remember those past wrongs and refuse to grant me any favor?" This is why he addresses his words to Abraham, thinking that the patriarch would be unaware of what had happened. How then does Abraham respond? Does he say, "0 cruel and heartless man! Are you not ashamed? Only now do you remember compassion?" Not this, but rather, Son. Behold a compassionate and holy soul! A certain wise man has said, "Trouble not a soul that has been brought low." This is why Abraham says, Son. By this he also intimates that it is within his power only to speak to him gently, but more than this he is not permitted to do. "That which I have to give, I give you—a voice of compassion. But to go from here to there I cannot, for all things have been shut. And you have received your good things, and in like manner Lazarus evil things." Why does he use the [Greek] word apelabes, thou receivedst, and not the [simpler Greek] word elabes? We say [in Greek] that a recipient receives [apolambanei] those things which are his due. What then do we learn? That even if a man is utterly defiled and has reached the last degree of wickedness, perhaps he has done at least one or two good things. So that even such a man may have some good things, as when he obtains prosperity in this life as his reward, and thus it may be said that he has received these things as his due. Likewise Lazarus received evil things as his due. For perhaps he also did one or two evil things, and he received as his merited reward for these evil things the suffering which he endured in this life. Therefore now he is comforted, while you are in torment. The chasm indicates the separation and the difference that exists between the righteous and the sinners. Just as their choices were far different in this life, so too their dwelling places in the next life are separated by a great distance, each one receiving as his due the reward appropriate to his choices in this life. Mark here a conclusion to be drawn against the Origenists who say that there will be a time when there is an end to hell, that the sinners will be united with the righteous and with God, and thus that God will become all in all. Let us hear what Abraham says, that they who would pass from hence to you, or from thence to us, cannot. Therefore it is impossible for anyone to go from the place apportioned to the righteous to the place of the sinners, and likewise, Abraham teaches us, it is impossible to go from the place of punishment to the place of the righteous. And Abraham, I presume, is more trustworthy than Origen. (1) What is hades? Some say that it is a place of darkness beneath the earth; others have said that hades is the departure of the soul from that which is seen to that which is unseen and invisible. While the soul is in the body, it is manifest through its own energies [which animate the body], but when the soul has departed from the body it becomes invisible. (2) This is hades, they say. The bosom of Abraham is the enclosure within which are stored up the good things that await the righteous, who after the storm have found the heavenly haven. We use the same word to name those bodies of water on the sea which are shaped like harbors and havens. (3) Mark this as well—on the day of judgment the man who did wrong will see the one he wronged in the glory that is his, and the man who was wronged will likewise see the one who wronged him in that condemnation which befalls him, just as here in this parable the rich man sees Lazarus, and Lazarus, the rich man.

27-31. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my fathers house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The miserable rich man, having failed in his request for himself, now makes supplication on behalf of others. See how punishment has led him to awareness. He who before had overlooked Lazarus as he lay at his feet now thinks of others who are absent, and begs that Lazarus be sent from the dead to his fathers house. He asks that not just anyone of the dead, but Lazarus in particular, be sent, so that the rich mans brothers might see him crowned with health and glory. They who once saw him in sickness and in dishonor and were witnesses of his poverty, would be witnesses of his glory. From this it is clear that Lazarus would have appeared to them in glory, had it been necessary to send him as a believable messenger. How then does Abraham reply? They have Moses. "You do not take care of your brothers," he is saying, "as well as He Who created them, God Himself. For He has appointed ten thousand teachers for them." But the rich man answers, Nay, father. Since he himself had heard the Scriptures and did not believe, considering the readings to be myths, he suspected that it was the same for his brothers. Judging them by what he knew to be true of himself, he said that they gave no more heed to the Scriptures than he had, but that if one should rise from the dead, then they would believe. There are those even now who say the same: "Who knows what is in hades? Who has ever come from there to tell us?" But let them hear Abraham who says that if we do not give heed to the Scriptures, we will not believe even those who come from hades. The Jews showed this to be true. Because they gave no heed to the Scriptures, they did not believe when they saw the dead resurrected, but even attempted to slay that other Lazarus who was four days dead. Many of the dead arose at the Lords Crucifixion, yet this only intensified the Jews murderous assault against the Apostles. If raising the dead would truly help us to believe, the Lord would do this often. But there is no help so great as the close study of the Scriptures. For the devil by trickery has appeared to raise the dead and by this means has deceived the foolish; and, concerning those in hades, he spreads doctrines worthy of his own wickedness. But no such trickery can prevail against those who make wise study of the Scriptures. For the Scriptures are a lamp and a light [see Prov. 6:23], and when light shines, the thief appears and is discovered. Therefore, let us believe the Scriptures and not seek out resurrections from the dead. The parable may also be understood in a more figurative sense. The rich man represents the Hebrew people. Of old this people was rich in all knowledge and wisdom, and in the words of God which are more precious than gold and many costly stones. And this people was clothed in purple and fine linen, having both kingship and priesthood, being a royal priesthood to God [Ex. 19:6]. The purple signifies kingship and the fine linen priesthood, for the Levites used fine linen cloth for the priestly vestments. The Hebrews fared sumptuously everyday. Everyday, morning and evening, they offered sacrifice, which was called the constant offering [endelechismos, Ex. 29:38, 42]. Lazarus represents the people from among the Gentiles, destitute of divine grace and wisdom, lying before the gates. For the Gentiles were not permitted to enter the house of God; this was considered a defilement, as when, in the Book of Acts, an outcry was made against Paul for bringing Gentiles into the temple and defiling that holy place [Acts 21]. The Gentiles were covered with the sores of festering sin, on which impudent dogs, the demons, were feeding. For our sores are pleasure to the demons. And the Gentiles longed for the crumbs which fell from the table of the rich man. They had no share at all of that bread which strengtheneth mans heart [Ps. 103:17], and they were in need of those most subtle and refined particles of the rational food, like the Canaanite woman who desired to be fed from the crumbs, even though she was a Gentile [Mt. 15] What then? The Hebrew people died to God, and their bones, which made no movement towards the good, became stiff in death. But Lazarus, the Gentile people, died to sin, and the Jews, who died in their sins, burn with the flame of spite. They are envious, as the Apostle says, that the Gentiles have been accepted unto faith [see Rm. 11:11], and that the people of the nations, who before were destitute and dishonored, are now in the bosom of Abraham, the father of the nations, and rightly so. For Abraham, himself a Gentile, believed in God, and changed from idolatry to the knowledge of God. Therefore it is right that those who share in his change and in his faith should also find rest in his bosom, and inherit his same portion, dwelling place, and store of good things. The Jew desires just one drop of the old sprinklings and purifications of the law in order to cool his tongue, that he might have the boldness to say to us that the law is still in effect. But he does not obtain his desire. For the law was until John the Forerunner and from then sacrifice and offering hast Thou not desired, as the prophet foretold [Ps. 39:9] And Daniel foretold that the anointing [chrisma] shall be destroyed [Dan. 9:26], and prophecy shall be sealed [Dan. 12:4, 9], meaning, that prophecy shall cease and be closed. But you, 0 reader, must also understand the moral meaning of this parable. Do not be rich in wickedness and overlook your mind which is starved and cast down, although it was created to be borne aloft. Do not let it wander outside, nor let it lie idly on the ground, but lead it within and let it act. Then there will be in you the working of the mind and the spirit, and not merely the feasting of the flesh. Likewise, there are other elements of this parable which may easily be understood for your moral benefit.

1. Origen’s teaching of apokatastasis, the ultimate restoation and reconciliation of everyone, even Satan, was condemned as heresy at the Fifth Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 553 A.D.

2. BI. Theophylact here provides the connection between the Greek word, ades, hades, and its etymological root, aeides, invisible.

3. The Greek word kolpos means both bosom and bay.

November 05, 2009

Cell Phone vs. Bible

This message has been circulating around the last few years but it is a good reminder:

I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages?

What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of an emergency?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?

This is something to make you go, hmmm, where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cellphones, we don’t ever have to worry about our bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!

November 04, 2009

The Way of a Christian

St. Herman of Alaska writes:

Without exalting myself to the rank of teacher, nonetheless, fulfilling my duty and obligation as an obedient servant for the benefit of my neighbor, I will speak my mind, founded on the commandments of Holy Scripture, to those who thirst and seek for their eternal heavenly homeland.

A true Christian is made by faith and love of Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He said: I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety and nine just ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He said to the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgements a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept the torment of despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.

Sin, to one who loves God, is nothing other than an arrow from the enemy in battle. The true Christian is a warrior fighting his way through the regiments of the unseen enemy to his heavenly homeland. According to the word of the Apostle, our homeland is in heaven; and about the warrior he says: we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph.6: 12)].

The vain desires of this world separate us from our homeland; love of them and habit clothe our soul as if in a hideous garment. This is called by the Apostles the outward man. We, traveling on the journey of this life and calling on God to help us, ought to be divesting ourselves of this hideous garment and clothing ourselves in new desires, in a new love of the age to come, and thereby to receive knowledge of how near or how far we are from our heavenly homeland. But it is not possible to do this quickly; rather one must follow the example of sick people, who, wishing the desired health, do not leave off seeking means to cure themselves.

(From a Letter of June 20, 1820)