Showing posts from 2008

Acts 12 - Return to Jerusalem

Acts 12 - Return to Jerusalem

1. Herod in this verse is Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great. He ruled in Palestine from 41-44. The Herods were half-Jews who ruled the Jews in Palestine on behalf of the Roman empire. Because of their divided loyalties they often performed acts to prove their patriotism the Jewish people. The actions of Agrippa persecuting the Christians is possibly one such act.

2. James, the brother of John was the first of the apostles to be martyred. And because it brought him favor with the Jews, he then arrest Peter.

3ff. This is during the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is Passover. This was an important time for both Jews and Christians. The Christians would have been celebrating the anniversary of the Resurrection. The church prayed for him during his captivity, and in spite of the guards n angel rescued him from prison.

12. From this verse many have supposed that this was the house where the upper room was. ..Mary was the mother of Jo…

Acts 11 - The Infant Gentile Church

Acts 11 - The Infant Gentile Church

1-18: Peter recaps the Gentile conversion and demonstrates that it was the fulfillment of the vision he had of the unclean animals.

19-24: The Church at Antioch is established and Jerusalem sends Barnabas to teach them. Barnabas goes to Tarsus and seeks out Paul and brings him to Antioch where they teach together. And it is here that "the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Being Orthodox Christians under the Antiochian jurisdiction we are very familiar with this line of Scripture. It is a point of boasting and is included in our "tag-line" on the Antiochian website.

Chrysostom comments on the scattering of the Church due to persecution: When Stephen was slain, when Paul was twice imperiled, when the apostles were scourged…then the nations received (the word), then Samaritans…Therefore, they went about discoursing also with Gentiles. ‘But some them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who, after they came to Anti…

Acts 10 - The Gentile Pentecost

Acts 10 - The Gentile Pentecost

This important chapter continues to follow the flow of Acts from Judea, Samaria, to the uttermost parts of the earth. Or one could say the Gospel goes to the Jew, the half-Jew, and then the Gentile.

We find ourselves at the house of Cornelius, a Roman officer, who was also one who feared God. He was one of the "God-Fearers" or Gentile Jewish Catechumens. He participated in the liturgical life of the Jews but had not become one himself. He was obviously devout and brought power to his prayer via almsgiving.

Both prayer and almsgiving and held in esteem as Christian ascetical practices. See the following two quotes:

St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no. 79)
Almsgiving heals the soul's incensive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect and prepares it for contemplation of created beings. For the Lord has given us commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul.

Chrysostom Homily …

Acts 9 - Conversion of Paul

Acts 9 Conversion of Paul

Chapter 9 picks up where chapter 7 leaves off (or at least 8:1). Saul (the future Paul) continues his persecution campaign against the followers of Jesus.

1. "Breathing threats" actually is breathing in rather than breathing out. This suggests that threatening and murder had come to be the very breath that Saul breathed.

Paul requests letters from the high priest to have permission to enter the synagogues of Damascus to hunt down the followers of the Way. This is an description of the early Christians. They had not yet been called Christians. The term the "Way" illustrates that this is not an ideological movement or some new school of interpretation. Christianity is primarily the Way. The Way that Jesus blazed ahead which culminated in the cross. It is the Way of the Cross.

As he journeyed toward Damascus, he was overcome with a light that caused him to fall to the ground. He then heard the voice of Jesus speaking.

5. Jesus t…

Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple

Entry of the Theotokos in the Temple

This is one of the 12 major feasts in the life of the Orthodox Church. We celebrate this every year on Nov. 21.

Below are some notes from a previous year's Sunday School. Our original class series was focused on the Old Testament Liturgical life, but we took a pause to cover this feast because it landed on a Sunday that year.  

In the midst of our discussion of the temple and the sacrificial system of Israel, the significance of this feast became more apparent.  

Based on the Scriptural readings and the hymns used during the feast, several points can be made.

1. She becomes the Temple of God. She enters the Temple and supersedes it to become herself the living temple of God.

The most pure Temple of the Saviour, the precious Chamber and Virgin, the Sacred Treasure of the Glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven! (K…

Acts 8 - The Gospel to the Half Jews

Acts 8 – The Gospel to the Half-Jews

1. In some Greek versions, this verse is included at the end of chapter 7.

Due to the wave of persecutions that began after the martyrdom of Stephen, Christians began dispersing throughout the Mediterranean world . This scattering was important for Christianity because it forced Christianity to be spread beyond Jerusalem. This is often the pattern in Christianity. Tertullian said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

4ff. Remember in Chapter 1, Jesus tells the apostles that they will preach the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. This begins the expansion to Samaria (or the half-Jews). The progression of the Gospel was to the Jews, the half-Jews, and then the Gentiles.

The expansion to Samaria was important for several reasons. Mostly for racial reasons, the first Christians were Jews, and many thought it would never move beyond the Jews, and this was a controversy the Church dealt with throughout…

Acts 7 - Stephen's Sermon & Martyrdom

Acts 7

Stephen’s Sermon. This one sermon is one of the best summaries in Scripture of God’s plan for communion with mankind, and the role Israel played in God’s plan. In many ways St. Stephen sums up the whole of OT history in this one sermon.

3. Gen 12:1

7. Gen. 15:14

28. Exodus 2:14

30. St. Stephen is building up to his conclusion that these OT appearances where Jesus Christ. He was the Angel of the Lord.

32. Ex. 3:6, 15

33. Ex. 3:5

34. Ex. 3:7,8, 10

35. Again He is showing that it was Jesus Christ who gave the law to Moses.

37. Deut. 18:15; Peter had used that same passage in his Pentecost sermon.

40. Ex. 32:1, 23

42. Amos 5:21 - 25

43. Amos 5:26, 27

45. The Greek version of Joshua is Jesus. So the Hebrew leaders would have called Jesus by the name Joshua rather than using the Greek name Jesus.

49. Is. 66:1

50. Is. 66:2

53. Deut 33:2; Gal. 3:19, Heb 2:2

56. St. Gregory the Great Why does mark (16:19) testify that Christ is seated, and Stephen that he saw Him standing? You…

Acts 6 - Stephen and the First Deacons

Acts 6

1. Hellenists were Jewish Christians who spoke Greek.

5. Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, & Nicolas were chosen by the Apostles as the first deacons. Although the word deacon never appears in this passage, it seems apparent based on later descriptions of the diaconate. Also Church tradition looks to this as the origin of the office of deacon.

Here are a summary of the lives of these men after they were chosen (taken from the OCA website).

St. Philip: Commemorated on January 4. Holy Apostle Philip of the Seventy, one of the 7 Deacons is not to be confused with St Philip one of the Twelve Apostles (November 14). This Philip was born in Palestine, was married and had four daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Twelve Apostles made Philip a deacon in the Church of Jerusalem. Along with the other six deacons, they appointed him to deal with the offerings of the faithful and attend to the concerns of the widowed, the…

Acts 5 - Ananias/Saphira & Gamaliel

Acts 5

-This is truly a frightening story. No doubt their sin was serious but are there reasons that this outcome was so tragic. I think there was certain level of purity that was present within the early Church that ws necessary to keep as a model for future generations.

Also this possibly took place during a liturgical service. Early in the life of the Church, offerings were given prior to communion. This also reflects Jesus’ statement that we should reconcile with our brother before bringing our gift to the altar. This definitely explains the seriousness of the act. The offering was an act of worship that was part of the reception of the mysteries. The act of worship was corrupted and death resulted.

1-11: Chrysostom: “that having made the money sacred he afterwards secreted it.”

-There is a similar story in the OT book of Joshua. Joshua 7. Israel had just defeated Jericho. Joshua 6:16ff. There next battle was a defeat at the hands of the small insignificant city of Ai. Th…

Political Thoughts

With great self-discipline I daily resist using this site for personal opinion, no matter how holy and right. Especially on matters political it is tempting to become another pundit during this past election season. Well the season is over, so I am gong to indulge in some prognostication. It is easy to get very euphoric or depressed concerning this last election based your political stripes. I don't know the political cultures in other countries but in the USA it seems we put a lot of faith in our political leaders. Both sides seem to make their leaders Messianic and the one who does a better job usually wins.

This past weekend during Liturgy, an Orthodox response to politics came shining through. For non-Orthodox readers, we pray at every service for our political leaders no matter who is in power. This is true the world over whether the Church lives under brutal dictatorships or mushy mouth elected officials.

This weekend I heard the Church pray as always:
"For t…

Acts 4 - Peter's Defense of the Healing

Acts 4.

This chapter continues with the results of the lame man’s healing and Peter’s subsequent sermon to the crowd.

1 & 2. Sadducees: the Sadducees along with the Pharisees were the two primary religious parties that made up the Jewish ruling assembly—the Sanhedrin. The Sadducees only accepted the Torah/Pentateuch authoritative Scripture. They also rejected the idea of resurrection, angels and an after-life. This caused conflict earlier during the ministry of Jesus, but now because Resurrection was a central factor in the Apostolic preaching, they were more disturbed.

4. By this point 5000 Christian men….another way of saying families.

5. Ananias & Caiaphas were the same priests that condemned Jesus. It is important to remember that this may have been within two to three months of the Crucifixion of Jesus. It would have been fresh on the minds of the Sanhedrin.

8-12. Peter is more direct about their role in the Crucifixion of Christ to the rulers of the people than h…

Acts 3 - Healing at the Temple

Acts 3

1. “at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour” The apostles were observing the regular Jewish hours of prayer. 1st (6am), 3rd (9am), 6th (12pm), 9th (3pm). The Orthodox church has continued these hours of prayers throughout its history. The full hours follow the Jewish reckoning of time beginning the day at Evening: Vespers, Compline, Midnight Office, Matins, 1st hour, 3rd hour, 6th hour, and 9th hour.

St. Basil: “The ninth hour is enjoined on us as a necessary time for prayer by the Apostles themselves in Acts. When the day is over there comes thanksgiving for what we have been given during the day and for our achievements; and confession of our failures, our voluntary or involuntary misdeeds, and those perhaps unknown to us, whether in word or deed or in the heart itself, asking God’s mercy for all through our prayers. For a review of the past is a great help against falling again in to similar faults.”

-Chrysostom sees in this miracle and image of the Resurrection because…

Acts 2 - Pentecost

Acts 2Descent of the Holy Spirit 1-13The Day of Pentecost is a Jewish feast that occurs 50 days after Passover.As a result of the feast, there were many Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem from around the Empire.Many would have come for Passover and stayed the 50 days until Pentecost.St. Leo – ties mysteries of the old and new together.“Grace was foretold by the law, and that the law is made perfect through grace.For as of old on the fiftieth day after sacrifice of the lamb, the law was given on Mt Sinai to the Hebrew people, now delivered from the Egyptians, so, after the Passion of Christ, in which the true Lamb of God was slain, on the fiftieth day after His resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and upon the people who believed; so that an earnest Christian might know beyond any uncertainty, that the sacred rites of the OT had served as foundations for the Gospel, and that by this same Spirit was the second covenant laid down, by Whom the first had been established.”2…


Before posting the notes on Acts 2, I decided to place our lesson on Pentecost from last year first. This provides much of the background material to understand some of the significance of what is happening in Acts 2.

As the name Pentecost indicates (pentekoste), this second of the great Jewish national festivals was observed on the 50th day, or 7 weeks, from the Paschal Feast, and therefore in the Old Testament it was called "the feast of weeks." It is but once mentioned in the historical books of the Old Testament (2Ch 8:12,13), from which reference it is plain, however, that the people of Israel, in Solomon’s day, were perfectly familiar with it: "offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the set feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles." The requirements of the three great festivals were then well understood at this time,…

Acts 1 - Intro & Ascension

The notes on Acts are merely comments that were made in our Adult Class at St. Michael Orthodox in Louisville. They are in no way comprehensive, and no substitution for reading the text. When posting them online, I will try to pretty them up a little so that they are more comprehensible than the notes I would use while teaching.

In effect the book of Acts is Luke part 2. This becomes apparent when comparing the introductions of both books. Luke addresses each to a person named Theophilus. The identity of the man is unknown, and some surmise it was a catechumen in the early church or because it means “lover of God” the name could refer to a generic new Christian or catechumen.

Luke was a physician and traveling companion of Paul; so many parts of the book are first hand accounts. He was a Gentile and is the only Gentile writer in Scripture

The book was written n the 60’s. We can determine this because he neither mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 nor mentions the martyrdom…

Christianity in Ethiopia

The most that many Christians know about Christianity in Ethiopia is Deacon Philip's encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8. Some may be familiar with the Queen of Sheba's brief encounter with Solomon in the OT, but this is as far as it goes. Ethiopia was one of the first countries to embrace Christianity en masse, and it was partly due to the Eunuch's witness.

Our parish has a significant population of Ethiopian Christians, and because of this I have had the wonderful opportunity to be introduced to their culture and piety. This past year our parish supported an orphanage in Ethiopian. One of our parishioners, Meskerem Eshetu, visited the orphange on behalf of the parish. Being native to Ethiophia, Meskerem decided to spend more time in Ethiopia and visit the holy sites that she had wanted to visit since a child.

This upcoming Sunday, October 26 at 9:30 am, Meskerem will be doing a presentation in our church hall on the orphanage as well as the history of Christ…

The Dynamic Horologion and Psalter

Yesterday I found a wonderful prayer resource on the web. It is called the Dynamic Horologion and Psalter. For the non-Orthodox, the Horologion is the service book for the prayers of the hours which includes: Vespers, Compline, the Midnight Service, Matins, First Hour, Third Hour, Sixth Hour & Ninth Hour. You can click on the service and the site will give you the service with the daily variable prayers and commemorations in place as well. There are multiple options available such as choosing particular Psalms, the current Kathisma (daily Psalm section), and daily Troparion/Kontakion (short chorus like prayers).

The designer of this work provides the following qualifications:
"Please note, this Horologion is not a complete Orthodox service book. Although it provides access to the normal weekly hourly services for non-feast days, it still lacks many features including the following:Canons and Akathists such as Sunday Midnight and the Akathist to the Mother of God.It current…

Sword in the Fire is back

I became a little lazy with the blog, and I am really backed up on Church School notes. Currently we are going through Acts, so I am going to try to get the notes caught up for Acts, and then go back to the previous lessons missed. By tagging the posts you could click on the tag and get everything in the category. So even if my chronological posting is off, one could still see all the notes together.

Here's a thought for the day that seems appropriate considering the blog title:

As at the rising of the sun over the horizon the shroud of darkness is removed from the face of the earth, so that it shows itself in all its beauty, so likewise when the love of Christ shines forth in the soul and the veil of the old nature is taken away, the light of Christ shines forth in it, and the hidden things that were not visible before are now seen by it. And as iron when placed in a fire has the fire pass into it to become one substance with it, the iron united with the fire assuming its liken…

Sin & Trespass Offering

Sin Offering: Lev. 4

Unlike the previous offerings we have discussed there are various degrees within this sacrifice. The material offered was determined by the nature of the offense and the rank of the individual for unintentional sins. Different offerings were made depending on whether the sacrifice was for a priest, a leader, a common person, or even the congregation as a whole.

A young bullock was offered for a sin of the whole congregation (Lev. 4:13), for a sin of the high priest (Lev. 4:3), for the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:3), and for the consecration of priests and Levites to their offices (Exo. 29:10,14,35; Num. 8:8).

A she-goat was offered for a sin by one of the common people (Lev. 4:28,32; 5:6).

This offering could be combined with others such as a whole burnt offering or peace offering, but if the sin offering was needed it had to be the first offered. Sin had to be dealt with before anything else. No doubt this was designed to make the people aware …

The complete Orthodox Study Bible has arrived!

The Bible is here and in my hands! Actually our parish has had copies for 2 weeks now.

Rick Mansfield, a good friend of mine, has a wonderful blog that tends to focus on Bible translation. This is not by design but it is one of his big interests and therefore he has a lot of articles regarding translations. In fact, whenever I have a question about a translation I go to Rick's blog or to Rick himself. He has article on most modern English translation and even the various Greek and Hebrew Bibles that exist.

Rick asked me to write a review of the Bible which you can find here.

I am sorry for the lack of updates because now my study notes from class are really backed up. I plan on resuming the post soon.