The Canaanite Woman

canaanite woman orthodox iconThe reading of the encounter between Jesus Christ and the Canaanite woman can raise more questions than many other passages.  In summary, we see a Gentile woman from a pagan culture coming before Christ on behalf of her demon possessed daughter.

At first, Christ ignores her; then he calls her a dog before finally healing her daughter.  What are we to make of this?  Why would God, who so readily healed the multitudes in passages before and after this one, appear to be so difficult and insulting?

As unlearned as I am, I will attempt to answer those questions, relying mostly on the assistance of Saints John Chrysostom and Theophylact.

Continue reading The Canaanite Woman

Why a Closed Communion Table? Part 2

akathist resurrection eucharist orthodoxOne of my greatest stumbling blocks coming into the Orthodox Church was the closed communion table. Growing up Protestant, my experience was that the table was open to anyone who considered themselves to be a Christian. Attending an Orthodox Church and not being able to partake of the Eucharist was difficult for me. I believe in Jesus, isn’t that enough?

My historical studies revealed just how unaware I was of Christian practices before the 20th century. I blogged about that previously; this blog will be focused more on the theological reasons for a “closed table.”

Perhaps the best place to start is with scripture and the questions:

  • When did Christians begin partaking of the Eucharist?
  • What is the Eucharist?
  • Why do Christians partake of it?
  • And finally, why is the table open only to Orthodox members in good standing?

Continue reading Why a Closed Communion Table? Part 2

An Ancient Homily for The Annunciation

Annunciation Full Size flyerThe following is the third homily on the Feast of the Annunciation by Bishop St Gregory the Wonderworker, probably written sometime around AD 260-275.

It was one long paragraph and I have divided it into several sections so that it is much easier to read.  All of the bold type is my addition.  I find it noteworthy that salvation in early Christianity was understood to be God rescuing his beautiful creation from death, which had entangled it due to sin.  In that regard, it is full of poetic love and (like all Christian writings from antiquity that I have read) it lacks any concept of a wrathful God desiring to take out his anger and justice upon His son on the cross.  Especially enlightening is the dialogue between Gabriel and the Lord. Continue reading An Ancient Homily for The Annunciation

Receiving Material Grace

prophet moses iconI am often confronted with the reality of a divine mystery.  This all-powerful, all-knowing God whom we serve chooses to “work in mysterious ways.”  (Isa 45:15).  The particular “way” that I have in mind is His working through material people and objects rather than doing everything Himself.

Even God’s greatest intervention in the history of humanity, the incarnation of the Logos, was completed through the willingness of a pious young virgin.

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES

When God wanted to free His people, he called Moses to confront Pharaoh.  How much more efficient would it have been if he had simply sent an angel to Pharaoh in a “shock and awe” sort of method? Continue reading Receiving Material Grace

Working the Land Within

Farmer in Indonesia by JayantaraHe who works his own land will be satisfied with bread,

but those who pursue vain things are in need of discernment. (Prov 12:11)

WORK YOUR OWN LAND

The “land” which we are advised to work is our heart.  Those who plow their heart, making it ready for the seed of the Logos and pulling the weeds of passions, will be satisfied with “bread.”  Bread here can be understood in two ways. Continue reading Working the Land Within

The Harrowing of Hades

resurrection2There is an ancient Christian account from the Gospel of Nicodemus that describes what happened between the time that Jesus died on the cross and his resurrection.  It is the account in which our Lord descends into Hades and empties it of its prisoners. 

While the Gospel of Nicodemus (or Acts of Pilate) is not considered “scripture,” it was used to create the Resurrection Icon and was also utilized for writing church hymns, particularly for Holy Saturday.  With that being the case, I believe it is a beneficial read for Christians.  It was probably written in the mid 200’s, though it likely existed in verbal form long before that.  I have cut out the first half of the gospel, which as far as I know, is not used for teaching or hymns in the Church.  The latter portion is more theologically authentic though. Continue reading The Harrowing of Hades

The Parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents

in the cell - Valaam Monastery, RussiaThere is a parable of Jesus that always puzzled me in my pre-Orthodox days.  It is the one of the ten maidens (virgins) with lamps who await the bridegroom.  In it, we see that all ten “fall asleep” and are awakened at the call that the Bridegroom is approaching.

Five of them are called “wise” and they have enough oil for their lamps; the other five “foolish” ones do not.  The five that are lacking attempt to borrow oil from the others, but they are refused.  The five foolish ones then attempt to rush to the market to purchase oil, but it is too late, the bridegroom comes when they are away and they are locked outside of his doors.  They request he open the doors to them, but he says, “Truly, truly, I do not know you.”

This parable confused me for many years because it seemed to oppose sharing with others. Continue reading The Parables of the Ten Virgins and the Talents