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Showing posts from 2006

Three Holy Youths

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Within Orthodoxy these three friends of Daniel have become an integral part of hymnology and theology. You may know them as Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. Yet these were their Babylonian names. Their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, & Azariah.

We first find them in the beginning of Daniel refusing the kings food for more simple vegetables. They did this out of obedience to God to avoid those things sacrificed to idols. Rather than making them weaker, their diet made them stronger than their Babylonian counterparts. This was a testimony to the power of God in their lives. Within Orthodoxy, this retelling is found in the hymnology leading up to Lent. We are about to give up meat for a period of time as we prepare our hearts for the Passion of Christ.

The next story of the three youths is used constantly in the Church. This is the account of the fiery furnace. These young men refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and are then thrown into the fiery furnance. It…

Daniel and the coming Christ

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This Sunday (Dec. 17, 2006) we had finished our journey through Philippians, so rather than starting Ephesians I took a side trip.

Throughout the Nativity season multiple OT prophets are commemorated. This is no accident because they all point in some way to the coming Christ.

This particular Sunday, Daniel and his three friends are commemorated. The discussion centered around how they pointed to Christ and what role they played in Orthodox theology.

Rather than summarizing the story of Daniel here. I want to point out three major prophecies of Daniel that point to Christ in a dramatic way.

Daniel 2:34-35: "Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were made of iron and clay and broke them into pieces…and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34-35). This prophecy comes straight from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. In summary, it is a dream about a statue made of four majo…

Philippians 4:4-23 Rejoice! Redux.

Phil 4:4-23 Rejoice! Redux.

4. Paul again returns to the theme of rejoice or to have joy in the Lord. He even repeats it twice. Then it seems that he begins a list of things that are intended to help support our ability to rejoice in the Lord.

5. “Let your reasonableness be known to all men” Reasonableness or forbearance- (always ready to yield, gentle, mild, reasonable, it is the opposite of returning evil for evil). It is the ability to bend and not break. This is greatly important for the Philippians because they were experiencing both persecution and betrayal in their midst. In order to secure joy in their lives, they had to lean on Christ and not necessarily take matters into their own hands.
The second half of the verse states that the “Lord is near” not necessarily that the Lord is coming soon but that He is closely present with us. We can afford to be gracious to everyone because Christ is with us (Farley).

6. “Stop being anxious” but with prayer and entreaty with gi…

Are You Saved?

As a former Evangelical Protestant this was a hugely important question for me. Almost all my religious services were directed at leading a person to a decision about their salvation.

Upon becoming Orthodox, I found that salvation is viewed much differently and that this question is rarely asked. For one thing, salvation is viewed as a process rather than a point in time. I heard recently of an Orthodox seminarian being asked this question by another man. He did not know how to answer and finally answered: "I have been saved, I am being saved, and hope to one day be saved." I am sure this created as much puzzlement with well-meaning evangelist.

For me, wrapping my head around the Orthodox concept of salvation has been a challenging part of my journey. Mostly, because of the difference of vocabulary and definitions. I found that a lot of former Evangelicals have the same difficulty. Then once they "get it", translating it back for the benefit of their Evange…

Philippians 3:17-4:3 Pitfalls on the Journey

Phil 3:17-4:3 Pitfalls of the Journey

17. Paul begins this section asking the Philippians to follow his example.
What is his example? Farley suggests that it is to “conform to apostolic pattern; the pattern is the apostolic teaching and example (Rom 6:17)”. Paul readily admits in previous verses that he has not arrived, yet he presses on. His example then is not so much every aspect of who he is but to follow him on his journey. It is the way which is the example--the journey toward Christ. This is what he is confident about. This path is sure and true and will lead to communion with God.
Paul also says to look at others who walk this way and follow their example. Who are those who we can follow their example? Today there are many faithful Christians who are on the path, but the church upholds the Saints for this reason. Here are men and women who have gone before us and have attained the prize. Their life is worthy of modeling. This should encourage us to read the…

Philippians 3:1-16 A Call to Rejoice

Philippians 3:1-16A Call to RejoiceHere is a brief summary of Phil 3:1-16.I will update it with more detail.Paul issues another call to rejoice almost as if he is ending the book.Then he becomes concerned about those who would steal the joy of these Christians, by establishing a standard other than Christ.Paul is reacting against a group of people within the church known as the Judaizers.The whole epistle to the Galatians is a defense against them.Judaizers were Jews who embraced Christianity, but felt the need to enforce the Mosaic regulations upon all who were Gentiles.The Gentiles were to be Jews first before they could become Christians.Paul reaction is that to enforce Judaism is to diminish what Christ has done.He begins his argument here by stating that if anyone could uphold themselves before God through a strict standard of Judaism it was himself.Paul was from the right tribe, studied in the right Jewish schools, and performed all the actions of a zealot.Yet he counted all thi…

Theological Lectures

Thank you to Tad Dryden for filling in for me this past weekend. Hopefully, I won't have to travel for a while.

Our class will be sponsoring coffee hour the Sunday before Christmas (Dec. 24). Anyone who wants to participate, please let me know.

Tad went through Philippians 3:1-17 and I should be posting notes shortly.

In the meantime, here is something new I found online. I found some Orthodox lectures on various topics. If you don't listen to the all make sure you listen to the lectures by Fr. Roman Braga. Parishoners at St. Michael's may know him. He is the priest at the Dormition Monastery in Rives Junction, Mich. Fr. Roman spent many years in a Communist prison in Romania. This experience transformed him and gave him wisdom that has become precious to the American church.

Here is the link to the lectures:

http://neopa.net/inbn/inbnfiles/

Philippians 2:19-30 Two Faithful Men

Paul sends Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians. Because Paul is not able to physically visit the church that he loves so much, he sends two trusted men back to them. Timothy is somewhat his representative and Epaphroditus is returning to his home parish of Philippi.

This passage tells us a lot about these two men, but from these examples we can gain insight into a model for ministry in our time.

19-24 Timothy

Timothy is the son of a Christian parent and a non-Christian father. However, it is apparent that he gained much from the influence of his mother and grandmother. It was from them that he received his Christian faith and instruction in the Scriptures.

Paul discovers him on one of his missionary journeys and takes Timothy with him to be his partner in ministry. Timothy becomes a “son” to Paul as Paul mentors him in the faith.

One characteristic of Timothy that we see throughout the NT, is his youth. He apparently was pre-30Â’s when he was ministering throughout…

Preparing for the Nativity

Today is an important day for Orthodox. It is the beginning of the Nativity Fast. This fast is similar to the Lenten fast in that it prepares the heart for the coming feast. This is a 40 day fast that will last until Christmas liturgy. Of all our fasts in the Church this one may be the hardest in our culture today. In American culture we tend to celebrate Christmas from November to Christmas day, then all is forgetten as the boxes and trees hit the garbage dumps. The Church prods us to be counter-cultural. Prepare, confess, fast, give alms for the next 40 days, then celebrate. Our celebration should last until January 6--the feast of Theophany.

During Sunday's class, we had a guest speaker--Prof David Drillock. Dr. Drillock is a retired professor of liturgical music at St. Vladimir's. He was at our parish to lead a choir retreat. During Sunday School, he gave a talk entitled, "Preparing for the Nativity of Christ in Orthodox Worship". Below is a copy of hi…

Philippians 2:12-18 Offering with fear and faith

Phil 2:12-18

In the previous passage, Paul has held up Christ as an example of humility, now he calls them to holiness and perseverance.

12. Paul commends the Philippians for their obedience to his teaching, not just in his presence but in his absence as well. This is instructive for us. It is important to be faithful, but to be faithful when no one is watching is more honorable.
In order to encourage their growth in Christ he offers the following advice: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. The word suggests accomplishment. Paul even uses it in Eph 6:13 in a military context to accomplish heroic feats (Farley). Christ has provided salvation and we are to live up or fulfill what He has accomplished. Paul then adds “fear and trembling”. This is to remind us that we accomplish this task in humility knowing that we are unworthy of such a great salvation.

13. The Orthodox NT does a good job with this verse: “for God is the One Who energizes in you both to will an…

Byzantine History Podcast

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Today, I ran into an excellent teaching resource. I travel a lot and I am always looking for new and free stuff to listen to in my car. I am linking a series of lectures I found on Byzantine History. Everything is approximately 17 minutes in length, and the author does an incredible job summarizes long periods of history. I have only made it through Julian the Apostate, but so far so good. His decription of Constantine is a bit rough, so you may want to double check his characterisation.

Here's link and I hope you enjoy:

Byzantine Lectures

Philippians 2:5-11 Humility & the Incarnation

5. Paul has been discussing unity through humility. In order to more fully demonstrate the humility that he is discussing, he presents Christ as the ultimate expression of humility. As we see in the verses below, he does not present specific actions and teachings in Christ’s life that point to humility. He holds up the totality of the Incarnation as the height of humility.
He encourages the church to have this same mind or attitude that Christ had. The word “mind” comes from the Greek word phronema which means mindset. As someone in class mentioned, it is the state of mind that controls and results in your normal action. Whatever your phronema will determine how you act.

6. This passage begins to show the depths of humility that came with the Incarnation. First, He did not “regard equality a thing to be grasped”. Paul is not suggesting that Christ is not equal to Father. In fact, the opposite is being suggested. The word “grasped” means to have or hold onto something th…

Philippians 1:12-16

Phil 1:12-26 Paul's Confidence

12 &13. Paul adds more words of comfort. Even though Paul has endured the shipwrecks, imprisonment, beatings and unfair accusations, he proclaims to them that this is done for the advance of the Gospel. This is reminiscent of the Old Testament story of Joseph. Joseph has been sold into slavery by his brothers, only to find imprisonment due to unfair accusations. However, through his prison experience he was released and became a leader in the Egyptian government. It was through his leadership he saved the nation and his family from famine. After it was all said and done he proclaimed, “What they meant for evil, God meant for God.” What a testimony?
In what way did the gospel advance? Fr. Farley mentions that “advance” is a military term that imagines an army advancing through uncharted territory in order to take more land. Therefore, this imprisonment is not a setback but is taking more “land” for the gospel. One Father states, “the…

Book Review: Beginning to Pray

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Beginning to Pray is a wonderful little book that is simple to read and opens up a world of prayer that is a beautiful encounter with God. Met. Bloom writes very complex ideas into truly simple and wonderful language. There is a sense that Met. Bloom truly knows what it means to pray. The following link will give more info about Met. Bloom.

It is difficult to summarize so much that the book presents. In fact, there are so many nuggets of truth, I imagine multiple readings over time would enhance its value. Here are several things that were especially meaningful to me as I read the book.

1. Prayer is not formulaic or ritualistic. By this I mean, that prayer is not some magic incantation that forces God to behave for us. It is an encounter and a relationship (26). Bloom makes this clear by saying that it can not be forced by us for there is nothing that we can do to make God interact with us. We want God to react and respond to our cries but he has much more justification to co…

Book Review: Partakers of the Divine Nature

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The heart of Orthodox theology is the notion of theosis. This is the ability to participate in the life of God and be transformed by this communion. It is a deep communion that allows man to truly touch God and be changed into God’s likeness. The book Partakers of the Divine Nature summarizes the Orthodox theology of theosis. Coming from Evangelical Protestantism there are a multitude of book on living the Christian life. This is the definitive Orthodox version and draws each individual into the life of God. This review summarizes the contents of the book and provides an understanding for partaking of God’s life.

Theosis is a term that describes the process of the Christian life. It is a Greek term that describes becoming like God. This is not a novel idea rooted in late Orthodox theology, but has been part of the teaching of the people of God since the beginning. In the first chapters of Genesis, God creates man in the image and likeness of God. The image is an unbreakable stamp of Go…

New Commenting system

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

This should make it easier to make comments on the posts.

Philippians 1:1-11

Philippians 1:1-11

I. Introduction:

Vs. 1 Paul opens this letter differently than most of his letters. He usual opens with an assertion of his apostolic authority. Here he opens by describing himself as a slave. The bond between Philippi was deep and unlike many of the churches, no one there was challenging his authority. They loved and cared for him deeply, and Paul shares this love by using a term that would suggest their common vocation—that of slaves of Christ.

Vs. 2. Grace to you is a common secular greeting among the Roman world. Paul transforms this phrase. Now the phrase is blessing from God and an acknowledgment that all grace and peace comes from God above. Fr. Lawrence notes that linking Christ and the Father in this blessing is also a tacit belief in the full deity of Christ.

II. Thanks for the Philippians

Vs. 3&4. This portion of the letter begins by Paul giving thanks for the Philippians. It is interesting that Paul say that they give him joy, and that h…

Intro to Philippians

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City of Philippi:

Philippi was originally a Greek city renamed by Alexander the Great’s father, King Philip. It was later made a Roman colony, and was found near the Greek coast near in the Northern Aegean sea. Today if looked on a map it would be in Greece just below the Bulgarian border (north of modern city of Kavala). At the time of Paul it was part of the Roman region of Macedonia.

The citizens were proud to be Roman citizens and this came with a tremendous amount of privilege at the time.

It was also a wealthy city. There were a lot of natural resources around the area, and it was nice trading community.

(the river where they prayed and were probably baptized)

Founding of the Church (Acts 16):

Paul and his traveling companions had been working in Asia Minor and were intent on ministering further in Asia, yet God stopped them (6). Paul had a vision that a man from Macedonia was calling to him to come help him. Paul and his companions (Silas, Luke, & Timothy) took this as God …

3rd Annual Institue for Orthodox Studies

If you live near Louisville, KY here are the details regarding the Institute for Orthodox Studies this Friday (Sep 22) and Saturday (Sep 23). The institue will take place at St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church on Hikes Lane. Babysitting will be provided on Saturday and Dinner and Lunch will be free of charge. If you plan on eating please call 454-3378 x6 for reservations.

The theme of the Institute is "Why a Crucified Messiah?"


Friday, September 22

6-6:30 pm Great Vespers
6:45-7:30 pm Dinner
7:45-9:00 pm Through the Cross
Keynote with Q&A
Rev. John Behr, Professor of Patristics, St. Vladimir Seminary


Saturday, September 23

8-8:30 am Matins in the Chapel
8:30-9:00 am Breakfast
9:00-10:15 am Forgiven Sinners Fr. John Behr
10:15-10:30 am Break
10:30-11:45 am First Response & Discussion
Take Up Thy Cross
V. Rev. Michael Dahulich
Dea…

Sunday School Book Review

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This Sunday begins our new Adult Sunday School series. We will be working our way through the books of Ephesians-Philemon.

The study text that we will be using is The Prison Epistles by Fr. Lawrence Farley.

This book is just one book in the Orthodox Bible Study Companion series. I spoke with Fr. Lawrence and he said that he has completed books for the entire NT, but that Conciliar Press is releasing them one per season. I think currently Romans, Mark, & 1 & 2 Corinthians have been released.

I have worked my way through about a quarter of the book and it is excellent. It is simple to read and follow. Fr. Lawrence using his own working translation rather than a currently available modern text. The benefit here is that it allows him to discuss the Greek wording and bring out nuances that many translations may miss.

I only have one complaint, but I do understand the shortcoming. I wish he had used more quotes from the Fathers and connected the significant passages with t…

Searching the Devotionals

My last post suggested two excellent internet devotional resources.

Let me give you some tips that can also help more meet from these resources.

Google provides you the ability to perform searches specific sites. By doing this you can look for words and phrases throughout everything that has been posted.

Here's how to do it. As an example let me show you how to perform a search of the Prologue and then you can figure out how to do the same for the Dynamis devotional

In the Google search bar type the following: site:www.westsrbdio.org
then type the phrase or word you are looking for.

For example, if I wanted to search the Prologue for everything St. Nicholai wrote about the book of Philippians then I would type the following:
site:www.westsrbdio.org philippians

By doing this you would get 6 entries that would take you to the text. You can obviously do this with any site, but this is especially useful if you are doing any personal Bible study.

If you have other questions or comments, let me …

Daily Devotion Suggestions

The habit of a Daily prayer rule is essential for the Orthodox Christian. Part of the rule that is essential to spiritual growth is some form of spiritual reading. This can be tougher than the prayer rule, because you may wonder what you need to read. I know that I have made it a goal to read through the Bible and have done so, but there were times that I would start in Genesis and then get bogged down in Leviticus. There are several read-through-the-Bible plans that can help get you through by mixing up the order of books.

Another suggestion is to follow the daily readings given in the Church lectionary. If you have a church calendar it will give the daily readings. If all the readings are overwhelming, just pick one and read it daily. There are several resources on the web that are extremely helpful for daily devotions. Let me profile two excellent ones below.

1. Prologue from Ohrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich. The Prologue is the result of the Serbian bishop now known as St. Nicho…

The Ladder Steps 29-30: The End

Sadly, this is the last post on the Ladder of Divine Ascent. I am sorry to see it come to an end. I am sure I learned much more than my class in studying it. There was much I could not teach because I could not come close to an accurate understanding much less practical experience of the truth. Hopefully the summaries have been helpful, and they will drive you to the original. As I said in the first post Fr. John Mack's book is an excellent primer to get you started and then I heartily recommend the original Ladder. I know many who read through this book every Lent as the monastics do.

Let me know if this was helpful and if a different format for future notes would be better.

Step 29 - On Dispassion-the spiritual state where the passions do not exist.St. John says that this man "regards the artifice of demons as a contemptible joke."
At this stage, the passions of man have become transformed by Christ so much so that temptation, although it may be relentless and fierc…

Louisville Orthodox Book Club & Institute for Orthodox Studies

The Orthodox Book Club will be meeting on Sunday, September 24, at 6:00 PM at the Dryden home to discuss The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death, by Fr. John Behr.

Fr. Behr will be the keynote speaker at the "Institute for Orthodox Studies" on September 22 and 23. He is Professor of Patristics at St. Vladimir's Seminary.

The following is the summary of the book given by the publisher: "By returning to the methodology of the early Church, Fr. Behr invites readers to approach the mystery of Christ in the same way that the first disciples of Jesus Christ learned theology. Fr. Behr examines how we search the scriptures to encounter Christ and thereby realize that we were created for this encounter, thus opening a profound perspective on creation, fall, sin, and salvation history. He further explains how Christ is born in those who are born again in the Church, their 'Virgin Mother,' so that they become truly human, after the stature of Christ, and continue the in…

The Ladder Step 28

Step 28 - On Prayer

“[Prayer is] A dialogue and union of man with God. Its effect is to hold the world together. It achieves reconciliation with God.”

This is the goal of all our spiritual work which is union with God.

“War reveals the love of a soldier for his king, and the time and practice of prayer show a [Christian’s] love for God. So your prayer shows where you stand.”

“Get ready for your time of prayer by unceasing prayer in your soul.”

The rule of prayer is essential to the spiritual life. This is addressed in any Orthodox work on prayer. The rule of prayer should be something done every day regardless of anything else. It should be the minimum that is done that is consistent to your daily life.

“However pure you may be, do not be forward in your dealing with God. Approach Him rather in al humility and you will be given still more boldness.”

Personal Prayer should contain:

1. Thanksgiving

2. Confession

3. Requests

Prayers from St. Ephraim

"I have the will, but I cannot say that I have the strength. I give what I have. Consider my situation and if it pleases Thee to give me what I lack, grant it to me."
-from St. Ephraim in The Spiritual Psalter or Reflections on God excerpted by Bishop Theophan the Recluse.

The above book is an excellent little book that I bought a couple of lents ago. I enjoyed it upon purchase, but only recently picked it up again. I don't know why I put it down. St. Ephraim was an early Christian saint in the whereabouts of modern day Iraq/Turkey. He has written an incredible amount of wonderful poetry that is reflective of his own prayer life.

This book is actually a compilation of another saint of the Church--St. Theophan the Recluse. St. Theophan is a wonderful saint for 19th century Russia. His works are easy to read and contain practical instructions on living the Christian life. St. Theophan took many of the prayers of St. Ephraim and compiled them into 150 prayers so t…

The Ladder Step 27

Step 27 - On Stillness

St. John "We are like purchased slaves, like servants under contract to the unholy passions. And because this is so, we know a little of their deceits, ways, impositions, and wiles. We know of their evil despotism in our wretched souls. But there are others who fully understand the tricks of these spirits, and they do so because of the working of the Holy Spirit and because of the freedom they themselves have managed to achieve. We in our sickness can only imagine the sort of relief that would come with good health."

This is one of the rewards of the spiritual life. The place of rest that one comes when they are no longer affected by temptation of sin.

Even though we may not experience this continually we do experience this from time to time.

The paradox is that the path to this type of lasting continuous peace is attained by great spiritual struggle.

The Ladder Step 26

Step 26 - On DiscernmentDiscernement is the ability to know God’s will in every situation; to know how to do battle in the spiritual life; and to understand all the schemes of the devils.St. John discusses three levels of discernment in the spiritual life and how discernment develops in our lives.Beginners – self-knowledge.-What does this mean?The phrase “Know Thyself” comes from Greek philosophy, but what do the Fathers mean by this? - Knowing yourself is not necessarily a pleasant enterprise.It is a honest self-evaluation that results in repentance, mourning, and humility.It an acute awareness of ones weaknesses, sins, and tendencies to sin.Midway – know the difference between good and evil in everysituation.This does not just refer to ethical dilemmas that may seem gray, but our interaction in the battle for our soul.We begin to see and understand the schemes of the devil.Perfect – to be so illumined by God that you are able to illumine others.This is…