Friday, June 20, 2008

Another Reason to Read the KJV's New Testament

With all the discussion of Bible versions online recently (read: since the release of the Orthodox Study Bible), I genuinely thought this was a parody for awhile. We've discussed other advantages of the KJV's New Testament before. I wouldn't agree with this preacher's statement that God "wrote" the King James Version word-for-word, and his Biblical numbers-system is loopy. But beneath it all, he makes a valid point. Not exactly the way I would have made it,'s memorable. And colorful.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pope Shenouda III: Pentecost (and His Health)

For those who hadn't heard, we're sorry to report Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Church, broke his femur last week and had to have surgery. According to his hospital, the 84-year-old is "recovering well." Thank God for his recovery. Although we are not in communion with the pope nor his church, we have wished him well in the past, and he continues to preside over Christians living amidst adverse conditions. In honor of the Feast of Pentecost, and with wishes for his full and speedy recovery, here is one of his articles on the operation of the Third Person of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit in the Church of the Apostles
by Pope Shenouda III

The descending of the Holy Spirit was the beginning of the work of the Christian Church. The Lord Jesus Christ started forming the Church when He chose the twelve apostles and sent them out (Matthew 10:1-16). He also appointed seventy others whom He also sent out (Luke 10:1-20), with separate groups of His beloved ones and disciples. Even though He appointed the apostles, He allowed them to start preaching only after the descending of the Holy Spirit upon them. This great occurrence was the point of great conversion in the beginning of preaching on the largest scale.
The Holy Spirit was the One who gave the necessary power for the work of preaching. The sending of the Holy Spirit was a promise from the Lord (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7), however, despite this He said to them, "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:29). Where will this power come from? He said to them regarding this, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me" (Acts 1:8).

The Spirit of God was essential to them for they could not work without Him. The Holy Spirit worked with them in preaching and teaching. They waited according to the Lord's command. Their previous preparation for service which lasted more than three years did not dispense them of the Holy Spirit and His work in and with them. Perhaps these ten days which they waited were days of prayer and hope, from the heart, in preparation for the coming work.

How did the Holy Spirit descend?

  1. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the shape of tongues of fire. The result was that, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). They spoke the tongues of all the nations gathered on that great day (people from about 15 nations), speaking about the glories of God (Acts 2:9-11). Peter spoke and the result was that the audience were cut to the heart, accepted the words with joy; three thousand were baptized on that day (Acts 2:37,41).
  2. Thereafter, they granted the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, just as had occurred to the people of Samaria; the Bible says that the apostles sent Peter and John to them, "who when they had come down prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit...Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15,17). Likewise with the people of Ephesus, as the book of the Acts of the Apostles states, "And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied" (Acts 19:6).
  3. The Holy Spirit was then granted by the Holy Anointment. This is because there was no opportunity for the laying on of hands by the apostles after the spread of Christianity in many countries. Therefore, Christianity usd what is now known as the Holy Myron (Chrism). Saint John the Apostle alluded to this anointment by saying, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One...: (1 John 2:20) and, "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you..." (1 John 2:27) (Also see 2 Corinthians 1:21).
  4. As for the priesthood, the apostles received this through the Holy Breath. The Lord Jesus Christ breathed on them, "...and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22,23).
Thus, the Holy Spirit who was in them forgave or retained sins through them. The apostles then granted the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of priesthood by the laying on of hands. Here we remember the saying of Saint Paul the Apostle to his disciple Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus, "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (2 Timothy 1:6). He also said to him regarding the ordination of others, "Do not lay hands on anyone hastily nor share in other people's sins" (1 Timothy 5:22).

We can also see in the sending of Barnabas and Saul that, "...having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia..." (Acts 13:3,4). Therefore, by the laying on of hands they were sent by the Holy Spirit. Likewise in the ordination of the seven deacons, "whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them" (Acts 6:6).

In this way we can see that the laying on of hands was accompanied by certain prayers, which are presently the rites of ordination. We can also see that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples from God directly, as there is none higher than them to whom He may grant the Holy Spirit. They became, "...stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). They became stewards of God who then granted the Holy Spirit with the laying on of their hands and their prayers, as in the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons. Or by the laying on of hands initially and then by anointing as with granting the Spirit to the believers in general. In this way the Spirit who is in them is transferred to others in the way that we mentioned.

At present we practice the Sacrament of the Holy Myron (Chrism) or the Sacrament of Anointing, after Baptism. During the rites of this sacrament, we anoint the child with the Myron (Chrism) on many parts of his body, and we also lay the hand on his head and breathe in his face saying to him, "accept the Holy Spirit...". With respect to ladies, the bishop can lay his hand on the woman's head with prayers to accept the Holy Spirit and anoints the visible parts of her body such as her head and hands.
May that Holy Spirit fully heal Pope Shenouda III.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Off-Topic: That's the Orthodox for You!

The citizens of a village in Romania knowingly re-elected a dead man as mayor. Those interviewed said they preferred the deceased Neculai Ivascu to his living rival, Gheorghe Dobrescu. (This takes, "That government is best which governs least" to new extremes.)

In addition to the fact that Romania is estimated to be 87 percent Orthodox, one quotation in the article proved this village is, in fact, an Orthodox village. One of the people who voted for the departed told the media, "I know he died, but I don't want change."

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Patriarch ALEXANDER III: Pray for Us

His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III (Tahan) was translated to eternal life 50 years ago today. As noted, on May 31, 1958, His Holiness the Patriarch of Antioch authorized the celebration of the Western Rite throughout his patriarchate.

The 167th patriarch of Antioch became only the third Antiochian patriarch of Arabic descent in the last several centuries before his time. His Holiness ALEXANDER III served from 1928 to 1958. During that time he "enthusiastically set about to revitalize the parishes, monasteries and the theological seminary at Balamand. Perhaps the most important factor to consider in this spiritual renaissance is the Orthodox Youth Movement, which was founded in 1942 by a group of dedicated laymen."

His Holiness named the young deacon Philip Saliba his secretary; that deacon would go on to become Met. PHILIP of North America. (He also ordained another deacon, whom we now know as Bp. ANTOUN.) And just weeks before his death, he authorized the reintroduction of Western Rite liturgical worship into the Orthodox Church.

In both these ways, his glorious tradition continues and abides within the Antiochian Church today.

Patriarch Alexander III, pray for us!

From the Divine Office:

Antiphon at Vespers: Ecce sacérdos magnus, * qui in diébus suis plácuit Deo, et invéntus est justus. ("Behold a great priest * who in his days pleased the Lord, and was found righteous.")

The Hymn

This the Confessor of the Lord, whose triumph
Now through the wide world celebrate the faithful,
At his departure entered with rejoicing
Heavenly mansions.

Fervent and holy, prudent in his converse,
Humbly and chastely here on earth he sojourned,
Curbing all passions, and in peace and meekness,
Constant abiding.

What though the grave now hold his hallowed relicks?
He, ever living, ever interceding,
Reigns with the Blessed, nor from us his brethren
Is he divided.

Whence we in chorus gladly do him honour,
Chanting his praises with devout affection,
That in his merits we may have our portion,
Ever and ever.

Glory and virtue, honour and salvation,
Be unto him that, sitting in the highest,
Governeth all things, Lord and God Almighty,
Trinity blessed. Amen.

The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Maximus, the Bishop of Turin
It is idle to strive to add anything to the praise of our holy and most blessed Father His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III, whose Feast is this day kept. For verily, the beauty of his godliness must needs be set forth in our lives rather than on our lips. Now the Scripture saith : A wise son maketh a glad father. Thus, if very many do make glad this Saint by the wisdom and devotion wherewith they follow his example, how great will be his glory! For in Christ Jesus he will have begotten us through the Gospel.

Whatsoever, therefore, of virtue and grace there may be in this holy people, all the bright streams thereof do flow from him, as from a most clear fountain. By his manly chastity, by his sternly noble temperance, by the graceful courtesy which marked him, he drew all men's love to God : and by him eminent ministry in his bishoprick he hath left behind him in his disciples many heirs of his priesthood.

Very meet and right it is on this day which hath been made a holy day for us by the passage to paradise of our blessed Father, His Holiness Patriarch ALEXANDER III, that we should sing this verse of the Psalms : The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance. Right worthy is he to be had in remembrance amongst men who is at this present keeping holy-day amongst Angels. The word of God saith : Judge none blessed before his death, as though to say Judge a man blessed only when his life is ended ; praise him only when he is made perfect. For there is a two-fold reason why it is better to praise a dead man than a living ; to call a man holy and worthy after his death can never be participation in the sin of flattery on the part of him that praiseth, nor of vanity on the part of him that receiveth the praise.
Response to the First Lesson of Matins: Euge, serve bone * et fidélis, quia in pauca fuísti fidélis, supra multa te constítuam * Intra in gáudium Dómini tui. ("Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : * Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.")

Response to the Sixth Lesson of Matins: Iste est, qui ante Deum magnas virtútes operátus est, et omnis terra doctrína ejus repléta est : * Ipse intercédat pro peccátis ómnium populórum.("This is he who wrought mighty deeds and valiant in the sight of God, and all the earth is filled with his doctrine: * May his intercession avail for the sins of all the people.")

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Patristic View of Signs and Wonders Pt. 2

This passage also answers the question, "Why am I not physically healed when I pray for it?"
It is easy now, when we see everything heading for destruction, to disengage our minds from love of the world. But then it was very difficult, because they [the apostles] were sent to preach the unseen kingdom of Heaven at the very time when everyone far and wide could see the kingdoms of earth flourishing. And so miracles were granted to the holy preachers, that their evident power might lend credence to their words, and that those who preached something new might perform something new. It is said in the same reading [St. Matthew 10], "Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast our demons."

With the world flourishing, the human race increasing, the body enduring long in this life, riches abounding, who would believe that there was another life when he heard of it, who would prefer invisible to visible things? But with the sick returning to health, the dead rising to life, lepers being cleansed, demoniacs being snatched from the power of unclean spirits -- when so many visible miracles had been performed, who would not believe what he heard about invisible things? In truth visible miracles shine forth to attract the hearts of those who see them to faith in invisible things, so that from the wonder done externally what is interior and far more wonderful may be realized.

So now too, when the number of believers has grown, there are many within the holy Church who pursue the life of the virtues, but they lack the signs of the virtues, because it is useless for a miracle to be shown externally if there is nothing to be done interiorly. It was for this reason that Paul said that "signs are for unbelievers, not believers"; for this reason that this outstanding preacher raised up Eutychus by his prayer in the presence of all unbelievers, when he slept during his preaching and fell from the window and died; but he did not cure Timothy, his companion on his travels from the weakness of his stomach by a word, but restored him by his healing art, saying: "Use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." If he revived by prayer a weak unbeliever who was, as we believe, dead, why did he not save his sick companion by a prayer? It is undoubtedly because the former who was still inwardly not alive had to be healed outwardly by a miracle so that an inner power might bring him to life through what the exterior one made manifest, whereas the signs were not to be displayed outwardly in the case of the sick believer, who was completely alive inwardly.

Pope St. Gregory the Great. Homily 17 from Forty Gospel Homilies. (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1990), pp. 122-3.
Read Post One, quoting St. Isaac the Syrian.

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