Showing posts from January, 2012

Jephthah's Daughter

In Judges, there is a disturbing story in the midst of a heroic and praiseworthy leader.  This man, Jephthah, was an illegitimate child, was rejected by his brothers, excommunicated from the presence of his clan, and forced to live in a land of foreigners.  

In contrast to the judges surrounding his story, he did not have multiple wives and prolific numbers of children, as if to create a ruling dynasty memorializing his own heroism.  Jephthah did not even have a son who would carry on his name, only a daughter, a daughter who appears precious to his very soul.

Out of fear from invading armies, his brothers called him back from the exile they imposed upon him to lead them into victory over their enemies.  Jephthah's only condition was future acceptance and continued leadership of his clan.  They agreed.  

Jephthah cries to God for victory and out of zeal or desperation makes a vow to God, unthinkable to modern ears.  If victorious, he will offer as a burnt offering whoever greets him …

The Pearl 4:3 - An Image of the Eternal Light

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 4:3

Not as the moon does, thy light fill or wane ;
The Sun whose light is greater than all,
Lo! of Him it is that a type is shadowed out in thy little compass.

O type of the Son,
One spark of Whom is greater than the sun!
The pearl itself is full,
      for its light is full ;
Neither is there any cunning worker who can steal from it ;
For its wall is its own beauty,
Yea, its guard also!
It lacks not,
since it is entirely perfect.

And if a man would break thee
To take a part from thee,
Thou art like the faith which with the heretics perishes,
Seeing they have broken it in pieces and spoiled it :
For is it any better than this
To have the faith scrutinized?
The faith is an entire nature
That may not be corrupted.
The spoiler gets himself mischief by it:
The heretic brings ruin on himself thereby.
He that chases the light from his pupils
Blinds himself.

Fire and air are divided when sundered.
Light alone, of all creatures,
As its Creator, is not divided;
It is not barren, for that it als…

The Bible - the Director's Cut

This was originally published for the Anglican journal Forward in Christ
The Bible - The Director’s Cut
          There are a group of books of the Bible with an image problem.  It is as if some budget conscious movie editor kept cutting for the right length and content, leaving the scraps on the cutting room floor.  Then along comes the offended director, collecting each scrap together, compiling them for the curious, calling it the “director’s cut” for rabid fans.  These extra books are commonly known as the Apocrypha, and while not considered canonical by many Christians they are profitable and should not be ignored.  

            Many Bibles today do not have these books, and the ones that do have placed them in an appendix between the Testaments.  The English Bible Tradition originally contained these books, and from 1549 onwards the lectionary attached to the Book of Common Prayer contained lessons from them.  Also, the 1611 King James Bible contained the books, and only later due …

The Forge 1.25.2012

The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is a great resource, and its blog The Sounding is about to get new life.  Melinda Johnson has been given the task of collecting writers from every spectrum of life to contribute, and the reboot will take place on Feb. 1.

Here's a guide to iconography in Lexington, KY.

Did you know that an Orthodox Baptism took place in the house of US President John Quincy Adams?  Nicholas Chapman gives the details at OrthodoxHistory.

It's hard to beat this photo, especially if you are Orthodox and a Potter fan:

ht:  Byzantine, TX

12 Great Feasts of the Church - Cliff Notes Version

In the book of Joshua, upon crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land, Joshua commands that 12 stones be taken from the Jordan to be set as a memorial of what God accomplished, perpetuating the faith and instructing future generations.  The 12 Great Feasts of the Church serve this same purpose, as we celebrate and remember the works of God in the past, present, and the future.  

Several years ago, our class went through each feast looking at the Scriptures and hymns that make up these celebrations, and out this study this guide was created.  This is a starting point to deepen the celebration of each feast and increase the memory of God in our lives.  

1.  Sept. 8  Nativity of the Theotokos
Gen 28:10-17; Ezek 43:27-44:4; Prov. 9:1-11; Lk 1:39-49,56; Phil 2:5-11; Lk 10:38-42;11:27-28
Keys Thoughts:  Wheel of Salvation Begins to Turn/ Prepare our Hearts for God
2.  Sep. 14   Exaltation of the Cross
Ex. 15:22-27; 16:1-2; Prov. 3:11-18; Is. 60:11-16; John 12:28-36; 1 Cor. 1:18-24; John 1…

The Pearl 4:2 - Let the Pearl Reprove in the Ass's Stead

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 4:2

Because Balaam was foolish,
A foolish beast, an ass spoke with him,
Because he despised God Who spoke with him.
Thee too let the pearl reprove
     In the ass's stead.

The people that had a heart of stone,
By a Stone He set at nought,
For lo, a stone hears words.
Witness its work that has reproved them ;
And you, ye deaf ones,
Let the pearl reprove to-day.

With the swallow and the crow did He put men to shame ;
With the ox, yea with the ass, did He put them to shame ;
Let the pearl reprove now,
O ye birds and things on earth and things below.

Judges: Lefty and the Fat Man

The sun beat down on his head as he trudged along the rocky path to bring presents to his oppressors.  Ehud was chosen from his people to be the tribute-giver, and had somehow gained a measure of trust from the enemy, but he felt like a traitor.  Regularly gathering the first-fruits and prime livestock for this back-water Moabite empire that had managed to enslave his people, he loaded his cart and camels with extortion.  
Entering the palace, the guards grabbed him, two brutes rifling his sacks, removing them from the pack animals, laughing at his ringlets of hair, hanging down his face in front of his ears, the marks of the devout or patriotic among his people, marks most cut long ago hide their true heritage.  Ehud's small tribe had a greater secret to hide than the edges of their hairlines, for this secret forced them to embrace a clumsy existence, marking them as slow and stupid.  Most of his people were cursed with the left-hand.  
Some, of which Ehud was one, used both hands …

The Forge 1.18.2012

This past week Fr. Stephen Damick created a mini-firestorm in response to the viral video "Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus" (you may have seen it on FB).  His post was a brilliant response.  Thank you Fr. Damick.  And if you haven't picked up his book Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, please add it to you must reads.

Fr. Jonathan over at Second Terrace, wrote one of the best pieces on the necessity of the Ever-Virginity of Mary.  This can be a hangup for a lot of people, but he does a great job placing it into doctrinal context with all his usual rhetorical prowess.

Here's a snippet:
"When, in fact, the Bible does: Mary is called "blessed," and could not be called so if she were to have relations with another man while the Father of her Son was still alive." and this
"and if someone were truly virginal like Mary ... then oughtn't I do the same? Am I not beholden to at least try?This terrifying thought is the main reason why the Ever-Virginit…

Ecumenical Councils at a Glance (part 2)

451 - 4th Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon

Heretics: Eutyches
Heroes: St. Leo (the Great) of Rome. 
Decision: Condemned Monophysitism. After examination of the Tome of Leo affirmed it as "the faith of the Fathers." Affirmed completeness of the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ: divinity and humanity (perfect God and perfect man).
Canons: Affirmed canons of previous three Ecumenical Councils.  Reaffirmed New Rome (Constantinople) as second in honour (following Old Rome) of the patriarchates. 
Statement: “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, recognised in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ”
553 - 5th Ecumenical Counc…

The Pearl 4:1 - Trust not Scrutiny

St. Ephrem's The Pearl 4:1

The thief gained the faith which gained him, And brought him up and placed him in paradise. He saw in the Cross a tree of life; That was the fruit, He was the eater in Adam's stead.
The fool, who goes astray, Grazes the faith, as it were an eye, By all manner of questions. The probing of the finger blinds the eye, And much more doth that prying blind the faith.
For even the diver pries not into his pearl. In it do all merchants rejoice Without prying into whence it came ; Even the king who is crowned therewith Does not explore it.

Your Own Personal Baal

In the imagination of their hearts, the sky god Baal looked down with longing upon the earth goddess Ashtoreth, overcome with desire toward her, he took her for himself, and through this union--creation sprang forth.

The peoples of Canaan, for their own safety, security, and the fulfilling of their own desires created a system to explain, control, and placate these elemental forces.  Much like we bend nature with technology to satisfy needs and passions, these ancients sought their own religious techniques based upon their own observation of their world.  

If Baal was angry, life, weather, and crops would go bad--so he needed something to soothe his restless heart.  Sacrifice was required to settle Baal and bring harmony once more.  This was not so much as worship as it was manipulation.  

Sexuality, fertility rites, and debauchery were acts that prompted Baal and his goddess Ashtoreth to move in favor toward man.  And Israel was attracted to this and tempted by it, for not only could pa…

The Forge 1.11.2012

The Forge 1.11.2012

I shouldn't but I am going to comment on the Tebow furor.  First, I am a fan.  I would love him on my team.  He's got character, he's positive, he's charismatic, and he is a leader.  But he tends to be a lightning rod for many in the secular press, and I don't think the press's ire is intended to be directed at Tebow--it's target is the rabid fan.  There's a large segment of of American Christianity that feels the need to be validated.  To be validated in American society you need the stamp of celebrity, and Tebow fits the bill for many.  This is a large burden for anyone including Tebow to bear, but gives a glimpse on how much of secular culture American Christians have imbibed.  For another perspective, fellow blogger On Behalf of All has written of Tim Tebow and the Saints

I mentioned before the growing revival that is occurring in Russia since the collapse of Communism.  This post and video shows us more Revival In Russia


Ecumenical Councils at a Glance (part 1)

Several years ago, during an ambitious catechism program, we tried to squeeze the most essential Christian content into 12 weeks.  If nothing else, I was able to develop a couple concise handouts that have been helpful for teaching.  The OT Skeleton was one of them, and I have one for the 12 Major Feasts of the Church I will post.  

Below is part one, we sketched out for the 7 Ecumenical Councils.

If you are not a history or theology nerd, the thought of the Church councils can instantly put you into a coma, yet if you are a Christian you can thank these men for preserving the faith you have received today.

Here is something to remember.  These were not men huddled in coffee shops arguing over the finer points of theological minutiae, impacting little their lives or their neighbors. These men were not theorists, they were practitioners of the Faith.  They embodied the Way of the Cross passed on to them since the time of Pentecost. 

For them, the decisions at the councils were matters of l…