Two prayers before reading the Holy Scriptures

Prayer before reading the Holy Gospel
Master, Lover of mankind, make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine within our hearts and open the eyes of our mind to understand the message of Your Gospel. Implant in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, so that, having trampled down all carnal desires, we may pursue a spiritual way of life, thinking and doing all things that are pleasing to You. For You are the illumination of our souls and bodies, Christ our God, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning, and Your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Prayer of St. John Chrysostom before reading the Holy Scriptures

O Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear Your word and understand and do Your will, for I am a sojourner upon the earth. Hide not Your commandments from me, but open my eyes, so I may perceive the wonders of Your law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of Your wisdom. On You do I set my hope, O my God, that You will enlighten my mind and understanding with the light of Your knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance of life everlasting. For You are the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from You comes every good deed and every gift. Amen.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sunday of the Paralytic

Matins Gospel: Luke 24:13-35
At that time, two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is towards evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. 
Acts 9:32-42
In those days, as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, bedridden for eight years, who was paralysed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him, urging him, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 
John 5:1-15
At that time, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralysed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterwards Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Third Finding of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist

2 Corinthians 4:6-15
Brethren, it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 
Matthew 11:2-15
At that time, when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

1st Thursday of Lent

Isaias 2:11-21
The Lord alone will be exalted in that day; for the day of the Lord of hosts will be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon the high and lofty; and they will be humbled. And upon every cedar of Lebanon, of the high and lofty, and upon every tree of oak of Basan, and upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, and upon every high tower, and upon every high wall, and upon every ship of the sea and upon every sight of ships of beauty. And every man shall be humbled and the height of men shall fall; and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And they will hide all things made with hands, bringing them into the caves and clefts of the rocks, and into the caverns of the earth, from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength, when he arises to crush the earth. On that day a man will cast out his abominations, the silver and gold objects which they made to worship with vanities and bats; to enter the caverns of the solid rock and the clefts of the rocks and from the glory of his strength, when he arises to crush the earth. 
Genesis 2:4-19
This is the book of the genesis of heaven and earth, when it came to pass; in the day when the Lord God made heaven and earth and every herb of the field, before it was on the earth, and every grass of the field, before sprang up; for God had not sent rain on the earth, and there was no man to work it. But a spring went up out of the earth and watered the face of the earth. And God fashioned man, dust from the earth, and breathed into his face a breath of life; and man became a living soul. And God planted Paradise in Edem, to the East, and he placed there the man he had fashioned. And God again made every tree fair to behold and good to eat to spring out of the earth; and the tree of life in the midst of Paradise, and the tree of knowing what can be known of good and evil. While a river came from Edem to water Paradise; from there it divides into four heads; the name of one is Phison, this encircles all the land of Evilat, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; and there is carbuncle and the green stone. And the name of the second is Geon, this encircles the whole land of Ethiopia. And the third river is the Tigris, this is the one which flows out opposite the Assyrians. The fourth river is the Euphrates. And the Lord God took the man he had fashioned, and placed him in the Paradise of delight, to work it and guard it. And the Lord God commanded Adam, saying: From every tree in Paradise you may eat for food; but from the tree of knowing good and evil, you are not to eat from it; on the day you eat from it by death you will die. And the Lord God said: It is not good for man to be alone; let us make a helper for him, corresponding to him. And God fashioned again from the earth all the flying creatures of heaven, and the wild beasts of the field; and he brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And every name that Adam called each living soul, that was its name. 
Proverbs 3:1-19
My son, do not forget my laws, let your heart keep my words; for they will add to you length of life and years of life and peace. Do not let mercies and faith desert you; attach them to your neck, write them on the tables of your heart, and you will find grace; and take thought for what is good before the Lord and before men. Be trusting in God with your whole heart; do not be exalted in your own wisdom. In all your ways get to know her, that you may rightly direct your ways; and your foot not stumble. Do not be prudent in your own eyes; rather fear God and keep from every wickedness; then there will be healing for your body and treatment for your bones. Honour the Lord with your just labours and offer him the first of the fruits of your justice, that your stores may be filled to abundance with corn, that your presses may be bursting with wine. My son, do not treat lightly the Lord’s discipline, nor give up when you are rebuked by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves; scourges every child he receives. Blest the man who has found wisdom, every mortal who knows prudence. For it is better to trade for her than for treasures of gold and silver. She is more precious than valuable stones; nothing evil will withstand her; she is well known to all who draw near her, nothing precious is worthy of her, for length of life and years of life are in her right hand, while in her left are wealth and glory. Justice comes from her mouth; she carries law and mercy on her tongue. Her ways are good ways and all her paths are in peace. She is a tree of life to all who lay hold of her, and to those who lean hard upon her as upon the Lord she is safe.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

1st Wednesday of Lent

Isaias 2:3-17
Thus says the Lord: From Sion a law will come forth, and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he will judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; and they will beat their swords into ploughs and their pikes into sickles, and nation will not take up sword against nation, and they shall in no way learn to war any more. And now, house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord; for he has abandoned his people, the house of Israel, because their country, like that of foreigners, has been filled as at the beginning with divinations; and many foreign children have been born to them. For their country has been filled with silver and gold, and there was no numbering their treasures; and the land has been filled with horses, and there was no numbering their chariots; and the land has been filled with abominations, the works of their hands, and they have worshipped what their fingers have made. And a man bowed down, and a man was humbled, and I will in no way pardon them. And now enter the rocks, and be hidden in the earth from the face of the fear of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength, when he arises to crush the earth. For the eyes of the Lord are exalted, but man is lowly; and the exaltation of men will be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 
Genesis 1:24-2:3
God said: Let the earth bring forth living soul according to its kind, quadrupeds, reptiles, and wild beasts of the earth according to their kind; and it was so. And God made the wild beasts of the earth according to their kind, and the cattle according to their kind, and all the reptiles of the earth according to their kinds. And God saw that they were good. And God said: Let us make humanity according to our image and according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of heaven and the cattle and all the earth and all the reptiles which creep upon the earth. And God made humanity, according to the image of God he made it; male and female he made them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and have dominion over it; and rule the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of heaven and all the cattle and all the earth and all the reptiles which creep upon the earth. And God said: See, I have given you all seed-bearing grass, sowing seed, which is upon the whole earth; and every tree, which has in it fruit of seed-bearing seed, shall be food for you, and for all the wild beasts of the earth and for all the winged creatures of heaven, and for every reptile which creeps upon the earth, which has in itself a soul of life, and every green grass shall be food. And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made; and behold, they were very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. And the heaven and the earth were accomplished, and all their array. And God accomplished on the sixth day the works which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from his works which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it; because on it he rested from all his works, which God had begun to make. 
Proverbs 2:1-22
My son, if you accept utterance of my commandment and hide it in yourself, your ear will obey wisdom and you will apply your heart to understanding; you will apply it to the instruction of your son. For is you call upon wisdom and give your voice to understanding, while you seek perception with a loud voice, and if you seek it like silver, and search it out like treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and you will find knowledge of God; because the Lord gives wisdom and from his face <come> knowledge and understanding. And he treasures up salvation for those who act uprightly; he will protect their path, to guard the ways of just deeds; and to protect the way of those who respect him. Then you will understand justice and judgement, and direct all good courses. For if wisdom comes into the mind, while perception seems to be good to your soul, good counsel will guard you; while holy thought will watch over you, that it may deliver you from a wicked way, and from a man who speaks nothing trustworthy. Alas for those who abandon straight ways to journey in ways of darkness; who are glad at wickednesses, and rejoice at wicked perversity! Whose paths are crooked and whose tracks are winding, to take you far from the straight way, and make you a stranger to just purpose. My son, let not wicked counsel, which has abandoned teaching from her youth, and forgotten God’s testament, take you; for she has set her house next death and her door-posts with the earthborn next Hell. All those who journey by her will not return, nor will they take straight paths; for they are not taken by years of life. For if they had journeyed on good paths, they would have found smooth paths of justice. They will be good builders of the land; but the innocent will be left behind in it; because the upright will inhabit the land and the holy will be left behind in it. The ways of the ungodly will perish from the land; while the transgressors will be destroyed from it.
Comments on the reading from Genesis
And God said: Let us. The one God says, Let us, from which we can see that He is a plurality of Persons. It also shows us, as we saw in the opening line of Genesis, that all three Persons of the Trinity share equally in the act of creation, attesting to their complete unity. 

Let us make humanity according to our image and according to our likeness. Unique among creation, man is created in God's image. This does not refer to a physical image - God is spirit (John 4:24) and has no physical form - although it is also a prophecy of the Incarnation, when God the Word took onto Himself a human nature. God made humanity, according to the image of God he made it. God's likeness is not mentioned in the actual act of creation. The Fathers undersand there to be a difference between God's image, in which every human being is created, and God's likeness, which is something we are called to attain. Man was not created fully developed, but was created for spiritual growth and progress to become like God, to become by grace what God is by nature.

And have dominion over it. Man is not only called to be steward of creation, in charge of its preservation, but to be the priest of creation. We are to offer creation back to God for its sanctification, something we see realised most fully in the Divine Liturgy where man takes wheat and grapes created by God, turns them into bread and wine, and offers them back to God who in turn sanctifies them and offers them back to us as His own Body and Blood.

And God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it; because on it he rested from all his works. Here we see a prophecy of Christ. After His glorious passion and crucifixion, Christ rested from His saving works in the tomb on the seventh day, before rising again on the first day of the week, which begins the eighth day of creation: "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5). The Old Testament commandment to keep the Sabbath holy is of such great importance because it encapsulates the two great commandments to love God and our neighbour. Ceasing from our labours for a day allows us to devote ourselves entirely to God, while also granting rest and ensuring a degree of freedom for others around us. This is why it is found in the middle of the 10 Commandments, connecting the commandments concerning God with those concerning our conduct towards our fellow man.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

1st Tuesday of Lent

Isaias 1:19-2:3
Thus says the Lord: If you are willing and will listen to me, you eat the good things of the land; but if you are not willing, and will not listen to me, a sword devours you; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. How has faithful Sion, full of judgement, become a harlot city; in which justice once slept, but now murderers. You silver is worthless; your merchants mix wine with water; your rulers disobey, companions of thieves, loving bribes, running after reward, not judging for orphans, not giving judgement for widows. Because of this, thus says the Lord, the Master of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: Woe to the strong in Jerusalem! For my wrath will not cease among my opponents; and I will execute judgement on my foes, and I will bring my hand upon you, and I will refine you into something pure; but the disobedient I will destroy, and remove all the lawless from you, and I will humble all the proud. And I will establish your judges as before, and your counsellors as from the beginning; and after this you shall be called a city of justice, mother city, faithful Sion; for with judgement will her captivity be saved, and with mercy. And the lawless will be crushed, and sinners as well, and those who have deserted the Lord will be utterly consumed. Therefore they will be shamed by their idols, which they wished for; and disgraced for their groves, which they desired. For they shall be a terebinth which has lost its leaves, and as a garden which has no water. And their strength will be a piece of tow and their works sparks of fire; and the lawless shall be burnt up, and sinners as well, and there shall be no one to quench the fire. The word which came from the Lord to Isaias, son of Amos, concerning Judea and Jerusalem: That in the last day the mountain of the Lord will be manifest, and the house of the Lord on the peaks of the mountains; and it will be exalted high above the hills, and all the nations will come to it, and many nations will journey and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will proclaim his way to us; and we shall walk in it. 
Genesis 1:14-23
God said: Let there be lamps in the firmament of heaven to give light on the earth, and to make a separation between the day and the night; and let them exist for signs and for seasons and for days and for years; and let them exist to give light in the firmament of heaven, so as to shine on the earth; and it was so. And God made the two great lamps, the great lamp to rule the day, and the lesser lamp to rule the night and the stars. And God placed them in the firmament of heaven so as to shine on the earth, and to rule the day and the night, and to make a separation between the light and the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. And god said: Let the waters bring forth reptiles of living souls, and winged creatures flying over the earth, under the firmament of heaven; and it was so. And God made the great whales, and every soul of living reptiles, which the waters brought forth according to their kind, and every winged flying creature according to its kind. And God saw that they were good; and God blessed them and said: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let the winged creatures be multiplied upon the earth. And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. 
Proverbs 1:20-33
Wisdom is praised in the streets, in the squares brings boldness. On the tops of the walls she is proclaimed, in the gates of the mighty she takes her seat; at the gates of the city she boldly declares: For as long as the innocent hold to justice, they will not be shamed; while the foolish, being ones who desire conceit, becoming ungodly, have hated perception, and have become subject to reproofs. See, I shall bring forth for you the utterance of my breath, while I shall teach you my word. Since I was calling and you did not obey, and I spoke at length and you paid no attention; but you made my counsels of no effect, you paid no attention to my reproofs; therefore I too shall laugh at your destruction; I shall rejoice when annihilation comes upon you, and disturbance arrives suddenly for you, while overthrow will come like a tempest, and when trouble and siege comes to us; or when annihilation comes to you; for it shall be, when you call upon me, that I shall not listen to you; the wicked will seek me, and not find me. For they hated wisdom, while they did not choose the word of the Lord, nor did they wish to attend to my counsels; but they derided my reproofs. Therefore they eat the fruits of their own way, and will be filled with their own ungodliness. For in return for their wronging infants, they will be slain, and examination will destroy the ungodly. While one who hears me will dwell in hope and will be still, with no fear of any evil.

Comments on the reading from Genesis
And God made the two great lamps. The sun and moon were objects of worship in many pagan religions, most notably Egypt where the Israelites had been held in bondage. To counter this idolatry, Moses here avoids using the names 'sun' and 'moon', calling them just two great lamps, in order to not personify them, stressing that they are creations of the One God and not deities worthy of the worship that belongs to Him alone.

Monday, 18 March 2013

1st Monday of Lent (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)

Isaias 1:1-20
A Vision which Isaias, son of Amos, saw, which he saw against Judea and Jerusalem, in the reign of Ozias and Jotham and Achaz and Ezekias, who reigned over Judea. Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, because the Lord has spoken. I begot children and exalted them, but they rejected me. An ox knows its owner, and an ass its lord’s manger; but Israel does not know me, and my people has not understood. Woe, sinful nation, people full of sins, evil seed, lawless children! You have deserted the Lord and angered the Holy One of Israel. Why would you still be smitten as you add iniquity to iniquity? The whole head is in pain and the whole heart in grief; from feet to head there is no wholeness, nothing but wound, bruise, festering sore; it is not possible to apply plaster, or oil, or bandages. Your land is desert, your cities destroyed by fire; as for your country foreigners devour it before your eyes, and it has become a desert, ravaged by foreign peoples. The daughter of Sion will be abandoned, like a tent in a vineyard and like a store house in cucumber patch, like a city besieged. And had the Lord of hosts not left us seed, we had become like Sodom and been made like Gomorrha. Hear the word of the Lord, rulers of Sodom. Attend to the law of God, people of Gomorrha. What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; I am full of holocausts of rams, and the fat of rams and the blood of bulls and goats I do not want. You are not to come to appear to me; who sought these things from your hands? You shall no more come to trample my courts; if you bring flour it is vain; incense is an abomination to me. Your new moons and Sabbaths and high days I do not endure; fast and holiday and your feasts my soul hates; you have become a excess for me, I shall no longer forgive your sins. When you stretch out your hands to me, I shall turn away me eyes from you; and if you multiply supplication, I shall not listen to you; for your hands are full of blood. Wash and become clean; put away the evils from your souls; in my sight cease from your evils, learn to do good, seek out judgement, deliver the wronged, judge for the orphan and do justice to the widow. And come, let us reason together, says the Lord; and if your sins are as scarlet, I will make them white as snow, while if they are crimson, I will make them white as wool. And if you are willing and will listen to me, you eat the good things of the land; but if you are not willing, and will not listen to me, a sword devours you; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken this. 
Genesis 1:1-13
In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was invisible and unformed, and darkness was upon the deep and the Spirit of God was being borne upon the water. And God said: Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God made a separation between the light and the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night; and there was evening and there was morning, one day. And God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the water and let there be a separation between the water and the water; and it was so. And God made the firmament; and God made a separation between the water, which was below the firmament, and between the water which was above the firmament. And God called the firmament Heaven; and God saw that it was good, and there was evening and there was morning, a second day. And God said: Let the water below heaven be gathered together into one gathering, and let dry land appear; and it was so. And the water below heaven was gathered together into their gatherings, and the dry land appeared. And God called the dry land Earth, and the accumulations of the waters he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And God said: Let the earth sprout herb of grass, sowing seed according to its kind and according to its likeness, and fruiting tree making fruit, whose seed is in it according to its kind upon the earth; and it was so. And the earth brought forth herb of grass, sowing seed according to its kind and according to its likeness, and fruiting tree making fruit, whose seed was in it according to its kind upon the earth, and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and morning, a third day. 
Proverbs 1:1-20
Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, who reigned in Israel, for knowing wisdom and instruction, understanding words of prudence, receiving difficulties of words, understanding true justice and directing judgement; that he might give cunning to the innocent, to a young man perception and understanding. For a wise man hearing these will be wiser, while the man of understanding will gain guidance; and will understand both parable and dark word, sayings of the wise and riddles. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord; while there is good understanding for all those who do it; true religion towards God is the beginning of perception; while the godless will reject wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not reject your mother’s rules. For you will receive a crown of graces for your head and a golden collar about your neck. My son, do not let godless men lead you astray, nor be willing, if they invite you, saying: Come with us, partake of blood, let us hide unjustly a just man in the earth; let us drink him down living, like Hell, and remove his memory from the earth; and let us lay hold on his valuable property; let us fill our houses with spoils; cast in your lot with us, and let us all obtain a common purse, and let their be one wallet for us; do not go in the way with them; turn aside your foot from their paths; for their feet run to wickedness and are swift to shed blood. For nest are not unjustly spread for birds. For they share in murder, store up evils for themselves; the overthrow of lawless men is evil. These are the ways of all that accomplish lawless deeds, for by godlessness they do away with their own soul. Wisdom is praised in the streets, in the squares brings boldness.
Comments on the reading from Genesis
In the beginning, are also opening words to the Gospel of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (1:1-3). Understood through the eyes of the Gospel, we gain a greater insight into the meaning of the words of Genesis. From the opening words of the Torah, we see a revelation of the three Persons of the Trinity. God made, refers to God the Father as creator of all things, God said, refers to His Word, God the Son, through whom all things are made, and we see the Spirit of God who gives life to all of creation hovering above the waters.

What we must understand about the creation account in Genesis is that it is first and foremost a theological account, not a scientific or historical one. This is not to suggest one cannot read Genesis literally, but it is the theological meaning of the text that is of importance and which we should examine.

God made the heaven and the earth. The Fathers understand this heaven to be the invisible world, and that it shows us that the creation of the various ranks of angels, which far outnumber humanity, took place before the creation of the visible universe. Darkness was upon the deep...and God said: Let there be light, and there was light. This again takes us to the opening of John's Gospel, where he says "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (1:4-5). We therefore see that, not only does God create the physical light by His Word, but that the Word, Jesus Christ, is Himself the true Light and Life of the world. This is why we hear of light before the creation of the sun and the stars, and why in Revelation we read that the heavenly Jerusalem will have "no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb" (21:23). 

And there was evening and there was morning. This is why the Church, like the Jews, considers evening to be the beginning of the new day, and why Vespers is the first service in the daily liturgical cycle. One day. While the other days of creation are numbered second, third, fourth, fifth, the first day is not called 'first' but one. Christ rose on the first day of the week, Sunday. By calling it one rather than the first, Moses points us to the eternal nature of the resurrection. 

Let the earth sprout herb of grass. By placing the creation of plant life before the creation of the sun, on which plants depend, Moses is again pointing us to the fact that it is God who is the ultimate source of life and sustenance.

And God saw that it was good. Everything in creation is inherently good because the Good God is its author. It is only through the exercise of free will (which itself is a good thing, for without it love could not exist) that evil could enter into the world. Evil has no existence in and of itself, but is a distortion and absence of goodness. Even Satan was created good, but he and those angels who followed him used their free will to turn away from God, cutting themselves off from his goodness and becoming evil.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

A note about the readings for Lent

Since today is Forgiveness Sunday I should probably start by asking forgiveness for not having had time to post much the last couple of weeks.

As we now enter Great Lent, we stop reading the New Testament liturgically on weekdays and instead read from the three Old Testament books of Genesis, Proverbs and Isaiah. We do this because Lent is a time of preparation and expectation, which culminates in the celebration of the Lord's saving passion, death and resurrection in Holy Week. The Old Testament is divided into three parts: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (the Hebrew name for the Old Testament, Tanakh, is an acronym derived from the first letters of these three: Torah, Naviim, and Khetuvim), and so we read one book from each of these. We read Genesis because it reminds us of man's creation and fall, from which Christ came to save us, and of the promises God made to His people that this salvation would come. We read Isaiah because in this book we see the coming of Christ anticipated more clearly than in any other of the prophetic books, so much so that Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth Evangelist. We read from the Proverbs of Solomon to remind us of the conduct and attitude needed for us to draw near to God.

The readings are rather lengthy, so I'm not sure how much time I'll get to write anything on them, but if and when I do I will probably limit my comments to the readings from Genesis. The English translation of the Septuagint text will be taken from Fr. Ephrem Lash's translation on anastasis.org.uk

Readings from Isaiah are read during the 6th hour (at noon) while Genesis and Proverbs are read in the evening at Vespers.