Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Antiochan Syriac Orthodox Daily And Festal Readings For Tuesday, 25 January

From dynamispublications.rog, antiochan.org, rongolini.com, http://sor.cua.edu/Calendar/2010.html and biblegateway.com:

Daily and Festal Readings:

Saints/Martyrs/Feasts/Fasts to be observed/commemmorated/celebrated: the Feast of a Holy Heirarch, Memory of our Father among the Saints Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople (329-389?), Fast of Ninevah Begins

Scriptural Readings:

Saint Mark 10:2-12 (1/25-2/7) Gospel for Tuesday: Thirty-First Week after Pentecost

The Culture of Divorce: Saint Mark 10:2-12, especially vs. 9: “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” The Church calls her Lord, ‘The Bridegroom,’ and she knows herself as His bride (Mk. 2:19,20; Jn. 3:29; Eph. 5:21-32; Rev. 21:2). Those who are united to Christ have profound reasons for rejoicing in this mystical union, for they belong to the heavenly Bridegroom and are “...no longer two, but one flesh.”

Contemporary society, to the contrary, is a ‘culture of divorce,’ not simply because the majority accepts marital divorce, but because a deep spiritual divorce has penetrated into the souls of so many men and women today. In modern parlance this spiritual divorce is called ‘secularism.’ Biblically, and in Orthodox Tradition, it is experienced as ‘godlessness.’

The frightening truth of secularism may be seen in the lives of those divorced from God and withered of heart, with little inkling of the blessings of being “one flesh with Him.” They are poor, lost souls and have few resources for escaping the scourge with which secularism lashes all their relationships! So, they embrace divorce as a good ‘solution’ when marriages ‘fail.’

Conversely, the blessings of being one Body with the Lord Jesus are the strength, encouragement, and illumination that union with Christ bestows. We can resist and struggle against this secular blessing of divorce. With divorce so common, many nominal, immature Christians are confronting marriage without the resources of their heritage. Many, therefore, drink the bitterness of divorce. Divorces by Christians warn us to enter deeply into our first union with Christ, that we may victoriously face each other and oppose the culture of brokenness.

Whatever our individual life status - never married, celibate, married, divorced, remarried - all are caught in a life and death dialog with the culture around us, its godless spirit and its easy predisposition to divorce. It is urgent to realize how that which “God has joined together” to Himself in Christ, we alone divorce if and when we choose to flee from the Bridegroom. God is not about to ‘walk out’ on us nor to abandon us. It is not His nature.

Union with Christ applies “both now and ever and unto ages of ages.” Therefore, He requires that we repent of our “...hardness of...heart...” (Mk. 10:5). Look how kindly Christ teaches the Church to restore those who are divorced and even permits remarriage. There is, however, no overlooking past failures. Confession, penance, and absolution are demanded. The Church expects its members to remain chaste. Fornication, adultery, and divorce are sins, but are not unforgivable sins. Those united to Christ are to take up their crosses, and keep themselves pure.

In addition, Christians need to embrace God’s evangelical vision of marriage in order to remain strong before the storm winds of divorce. The Bridegroom has come and taken us to Himself. Let us recognize earthly marriages as vocations for illumining the world with the light of our blessed union with Christ. What a saving beacon true Christian marriages can be!

Christian couples have the privilege of giving the floundering world the message that “God has not abandoned you! He loves you. He welcomes you home. His arms are stretched out.” Let us appreciate marriage in this light! When Christian couples grasp the Truth, and seek to make their marriages into living icons of Him, they allow the grace of their union with Christ to flow into the world through their marriages. Earthly marriages can be opportunities to bless. Those who are single, being bonded to Christ the Bridegroom, may also proclaim, by their manner of life and speaking, the power of life and true marriage to the culture of divorce.

O Master, send down Thy grace upon all Thy servants, married and single. Preserve them, O Lord, as Thou didst preserve Noah in the Ark, and let Thy gladness come upon them.

Saint John 10:9-16 (1/25-2/7) Gospel for the Feast of a Holy Hierarch

Three Images: Saint John 10:9-17, especially vss. 9, 11, 17: “I Am the door....I Am the good shepherd....My Father loves Me....” In this passage from John, the Lord Jesus presents Himself not in abstract terms nor in convoluted phrases, but in three earthly images easily understood by thoughtful people in any culture. The images are at once profound invitations, and also solemn warnings. They convey all the essential elements of the life-giving Gospel of our Faith, the great good that is in Christ, and the clear and present dangers of turning away from Him.

When the Lord Jesus declares, “I Am the door” (vs. 9), He indicates that He is the exclusive gateway for reaching God. Traveling to earthly destinations, we may pass through many gateways or doors onto various roads or paths by which to cross a city or to reach another part of the country; but to enter any space walled off from entrance, only a door provides access. The enclosure to which the Lord refers in this passage is a sheepfold or pen for holding and protecting a flock (Jn. 10:1). With the image, the Lord discloses that attaining Divine shelter, and care is through Him: whoever “enters by Me, he will be saved, and...find pasture” (Jn. 10:9).

A century ago, a traveler in the Middle East reported meeting a shepherd with his flock. As the two men talked, the shepherd indicated the fold where he kept the sheep during the night - an enclosure where the animals were safe from predators. It consisted of four walls with one opening, for passing in and out. The traveler noted that there was no gate across the opening. The shepherd explained, “I am the door; I lay down across the opening after I have brought in my flock.” Furthermore, the shepherd declared that none of his sheep crossed over him during the night, and no wolf would come in, being deterred by his body lying across the entry.

The dominant image in this passage is Christ as Good Shepherd. The Lord even names Himself thus twice (vss. 11,14). Saint John Chrysostom points out that this image of our Lord “...speaketh concerning the Passion,” thereby underscoring Christ’s Self-sacrifice for “...the salvation of the world.” In addition, by the image, the Lord Jesus calls on us to consider the bond He has with us - His flock, the Church. Our relationships with Him are very close and special to Him. We are His own. He will not flee when we are under duress (vs. 12), something demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. He is continuously present: “...lo, I Am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:20).

The Lord’s presence is reassuring: He always “...sees the wolf coming,” long before we are aware of the enemy’s advance (Jn. 10:12). Knowing us well (vs. 14), He is able to waken us early to the dangers coming upon us and to rouse us to prayer – if we will. Thus, He prepares for Satan’s assaults, helping us be ready. How is it that He is able to have such foresight and to communicate with us when danger lurks? Do not forget that, in Christ Jesus, we are touching God to Whom all things are known and Who ever protects us, past, present, and forever.

In the closing verses, Christ our God directs attention to His Divine nature: “as the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father....” (vs. 15). Our Good Shepherd is ever with us, and through Him we have access to God the Father. He sees and understands our condition far better than we do ourselves. He guarantees that there is nothing to “...hinder us from being saved....Nothing, unless we ourselves revolt from Him...,” as Saint John Chrysostom says. What better assurance do we need than to know that we belong to God Who even laid “...down [His] life for the sheep” (vs. 15), and took “...it again” (vs. 17), and ever watches over us?

O Thou, Good Shepherd of Thy People, grant us to hear Thy voice and to follow where Thou dost lead, for with Thy Father and the Holy Spirit, Thou art our God unto all ages.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 (King James Version)

7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The Synaxarion:
January 25

Memory of our Father among the Saints Gregory the Theologian, Archbishop of Constantinople (329-389?)

This Father and Teacher of the Church was born around 329 in Arianzus, a market town in Second Cappadocia, in the vicinity of Nazianzus. His father, a convert from paganism who became the Bishop of Nazianzus, was also named Gregory, and his mother Nonna. He studied first in Caesarea of Cappadocia, then in Alexandria, and finally in Athens, where he became a close friend of Saint Basil. Returning to his country in 357, he received Holy Baptism and gave himself to asceticism with his friend in the wilderness of Pontus. He was ordained a priest of the Church of Nazianzus, by his own father. Saint Basil consecrated him Bishop of Sasima, a suffering see of Caesarea. In 375, he withdrew to the monastery of Saint Thecla in Seleucia of Isauria. It is from there that he left in 379 to help the Church of Constantinople, troubled for forty years by the Arians. Supported by the pious Emperor Theodosius the Great, he managed by his wise discourses, sufferings, and many punishments, to free his Church from the plague of heresy. He fell asleep in the Lord in 389 or 390. The grandeur of his theological writings have merited him the surname of "Theologian." That which comes down to us of his works, discourses and poems of all types, witness to his radiant eloquence and remarkable knowledge.

Third Class Feast, follow the general order of a Third Class Feast.

In occurrence with the Saturday of the Dead, the feast of Saint Gregory is anticipated on January 24

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