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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Intro to Philippians


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 command to move toward the European mainland (9).

Upon arriving in Macedonia, Paul followed his normal pattern of evangelism: 1. go to a large city in the region 2. approach the Jewish community 3. Preach & gather converts 4. get kicked out of the synagogue 5. use the Jewish converts as the base for the growing church. Because of Paul's background as a scholar he was allowed to participate in the Scripture readings and deliver the homily commenting on the passage of the day. No doubt, he used this to demonstrate the fulfillment of the OT in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Philippi there was no synagogue present. According to Jewish tradition there had to be 10 men present to establish a synagogue. Apparently the Jews who were in the city (mostly women), continued to practice their daily cycle of prayers, and they met at the riverside to do this. Paul met with them and worshipped with them. Lydia—wealthy woman from Thyatira in Asia Minor--was convinced by Paul's teaching and accepted baptism along with her whole house. It appears Lydia was not a Jew but a God-fearer—a Gentile proselyte (14). It was the God-fearers who embraced Christianity so readily. She opened her house to Paul and it became the location of the infant Philippian church (15).

(photo: icons of St. Paul & Lydia in Orthodox church inPhilippi)

Spirit of Divination was cast out:

As Paul and his companions were traveling daily to the place of prayer, they were followed by a demon possesed girl. This slave girl has been enslaved to bring her master profit through her demon possession. She was crying out the truth about Paul saying "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show unto us the way of salvation." She did this for days and Paul became annoyed or “worn out” by her and cast the demon out of her.

Why did Paul stop her if she was speaking the truth? Chrysostom gives several reasons: 1. demon spoke from malice and hypocrisy and wanted to take credit for something God was doing. 2. If Paul admitted this testimony many of the people and new Christians could stumble by thinking that demons always spoke the truth.

Also, there possibly was a level of compassion that Paul felt for the girl and by relying on her testimony for his gain, would have made him no better than her captors.

This caused their arrest and they were beaten and thrown into prison (19-22). Around midnight in Jail they were praying and singing hymns of praise. This would have been one of the times prayer in Judaism--today equivalent to our midnight office. There was an earthquake that provided an escape for all imprisoned. The jailer awoke and was ready to kill himself due to the prison break. Paul & Silas stopped him (28).

There are multiple reasons why the jailer may have attempted suicide. He knew that the prison break would have brought down Roman punishment with the possible loss of citizenship not only for him, but his whole family. By killing himself, if might look as if a prisoner did it, and at least his family could be saved from punishment.

The jailer cries out “What must I do to be saved?” (29). My guess is that he may not betalking about spiritual salvation but salvation for his own life. However Paul uses this moment to give him the means for true salvation---faith in Jesus Christ.

The jailer bathed their wounds and then Paul bathed them spiritually in the waters of Holy Baptism. Chrysostom loves to point out these contrasts. For example, who have the jailer binding Paul and Silas; and then you have Paul removing the jailer's spiritual bondage.

The jailer then takes them back to prison but the magistrate releases them. Paul proclaims his Roman citizenship and scares the local government and they ask him to leave. This threatened to cause scandal and problems for the local government. It was against the law to beat and arrest a citizen without trial. Paul encourages the new believers and leaves for another city.

Themes in the Letter:

1. Letter of thanks from Paul. The Philippians had been a big financial supporter of Paul and other charitable needs of the church at large. They had supported him while he was imprisoned which was important, because the government did not provide for the care of those imprisoned. It was the responsibility of the family and friends of the incarcerated.
2. Exhortation to unity. This appears several times throughout the letter, and Paul uses the situation of two in the church to provide a discussion of unity.
3. Joy in the midst of suffering. This is the major theme of the book. The church of Philippi began this way. Paul and Silas suffering in prison, but singing with resurrectional joy. Once again, he finds himself imprisoned and he writes encouraging them that suffering can bring joy when experienced through the cross.

Liturgical Use:

Phil 2:5-11 used multiple times in the church. It is used as the epistle during the Marian feasts (Dormition, Nativity).

Phil 4:4-9 - The epistle reading for Palm Sunday.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

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
Dean of St. Tikon Seminary
11:45-12:30 pm Lunch
12:30-1:45 pm Virgin Mother Fr. John Behr
1:45-2:00 pm Break
2:00-3:15 pm Second Response & Discussion
Door Keeper to Eternity: the Parish Priest as Guardian of Souls
V. Rev. Michael Laffoon
Pastor of St. Mark Orthodox Church
Irvine, Ca.
3:15-3:30 pm Break
3:30-4:15 pm Discussion with Presenters
Facilitated by Dr. David Bradshaw
Professor of Philosophy, University of Kentucky
4:15-4:30 pm Break
4:30-5:15 pm What is the Church: Concluding Summary on the Significance of Conference Theme for Living the Christian Life
V. Rev. Alexander Atty
Pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Orthodox Church

other info can be found here

Sunday School Book Review


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 the Liturgy. This is something that I will attempt to do in class and my notes on the site. For example, the famous "kenosis" passage in Phil. 2 is used in many of the feasts of the Theotokos as the epistle reading. Why would the Church do this? What does it teach us? We will address these topics in class.

This is not to say that he does not use the Fathers, because upon reading Chrysostom it is evident that Fr. Lawrence has drunk deeply of the mind of the Fathers. I think for simplicity sake he attempted to distill it all into a readible commentary without turning it into an academic text. Well done, Fr. Lawrence.

The church bookstore will have copies available in the next couple of weeks. Or you can click on the book above or on the following link to purchase through Amazon: Prison Epistles

See you on Sunday.

Friday, September 08, 2006

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 know.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

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. Nicholai of Zica. He wrote daily readings that include the lives of several of the saints of the day, a commentary on various scriptures, a meditation on various themes, and questions for contemplation. This sounds like a lot, but the actual text is fairly short, but full in terms of meaning.

The following is a short summary of his like taken from OrthodoxWiki. Nikolaj Velimirović was born in the small village of Lelich in Western Serbia. He attended the Seminary of St. Sava in Belgrade and graduated in 1905. He obtained doctorates from the University of Berne (1908), while the thesis was published in German in 1910, whereas the doctor's degree in philosophy was prepared at Oxford and defended in Geneva (Filozofija Berklija - Berkeley's Philosophy, in French) in 1909. At the end of 1909 he entered a monastic order. In 1919, then Archimandrite Nikolai was consecrated Bishop of Žiča in the Church of Serbia.

In April 1915 (during WWI) he was delegated to England and America by the Serbian Church, where he held numerous lectures, fighting for the unison of the Serbs and South Slavic peoples. At the beginning of 1919 he returned to Serbia, and in 1920 was posted to the Ohrid archbishopric in Macedonia, where in 1935, in Bitola he reconstructed the cemetery of the killed German soldiers.

During the Second World War in 1941 Bp. Nikolai was arrested by the Nazis in the Monastery of Žiča (which was soon afterwards robbed and ruined), after which he was confined in the Monastery of Ljubostinja (where, on the occasion of mass deaths by firing squad, he reacted saying: "Is this the German culture, to shoot hundred innocent Serbs, for one dead German soldier! The Turks have always proved to be more just..."). Later, this "new Chrysostom" was transferred to the Monastery of Vojlovica (near Pančevo) in which he was confined together with the Serbian patriarch, Gavrilo (Dožić) until the end of 1944.

On December 14, 1944 he was sent to Dachau, together with Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo, where some sources, especially the standard Church references, record that he suffered both imprisonment and torture.[1]

After the War he left Communist Yugoslavia and immigrated as a refugee to the United States in 1946 where he taught at several Orthodox Christian seminaries such as St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania (where he was rector and also where he died) and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary now in Crestwood, New York. He died on March 18, 1956. He was glorified as a saint in May 2003.

The whole of the Prologue can be found online at the link below. You can also buy the hard copy as well.

to read click here

to buy click here
2. Dynamis devotional

This is an excellent devotional that is published by St. George Orthodox Cathedral in Wichita, KS. The beauty of this devotional is that it follows the daily readings of the Church's lectionary. Occassionaly it will diverge into the OT, but in doing so they are taking from festal readings that are nearby on the Church calendar. The other wonderful feature of these devotionals is that they can be emailed to you on a daily basis. The emails will always come the day before the reading occurs. These are excellent because they are practical and full of quotes from the Church Fathers.

to read click here

Enjoy and God Bless.

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