The Last Times

A snippet from the Daily Reflections by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon (here)

….Peter went on to say, on a misunderstanding of what is meant by “last times.” This designation “last” is qualitative, not quantitative. It is not concerned with “how much,” but “of what sort.” The “last times” are not quantified; their limit is not known to us, but that limit is irrelevant to their quality. The last times are always the last times, no matter how long they last. Since the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are always within the eleventh hour, and this designation means only that it is the hour before the twelfth; it can last as long as God intends it to.

Sunday, August 10

2 Peter 3:10-18: Since only God knows the length of the eleventh hour, the Lord’s return will confound all human calculations of its timing. The simile of the thief in the night, for instance, must not be taken literally, because it is never nighttime everywhere at the same time, and the Bible contains no hint that the Lord will return to the earth by following the sequence of its appointed time zones!

This comparison with the thief’s nocturnal entrance was doubtless common among the early Christians (Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 3:3; 16:5). It will all happen with a “rush,” this onomatopoeia corresponding to the Greek verb rhoizedon in verse 10. Watchfulness, therefore, and a holy life are the proper responses to our true situation in this world (verse 11; Matthew 24:42-51; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11). Both heaven and earth will be renewed (verse 13; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Revelation 21:1; cf. Romans 8:19-22). ….

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On Palm Sunday

theentryintojerusalemA written transcript of the homily of Patriarch John X of Antioch delivered on Palm Sunday and posted here

Our feast today is the feast of salvation. And in Arabic the feast’s name Shaanin comes from the word Hoshanna “come and save us” which came out of Jerusalem’s children mouths when receiving Jesus which means “the savior” as well. Here we are gathering in this day together with our children to receive the Lord of glory entering to Jerusalem starting the path of His passions out of His love towards mankind. We receive Him holding a candle praying like children and saying: O come You, the heavenly Bridegroom! Crash the darkness of these times and fill the lanterns of our souls with the oil of your divine consolation. Come and wash our souls with the sinner woman’s spikenard so we may become members of their blessed order announcing the tidings of joy of our Lord’s Resurrection, the resurrection of the mankind to the whole world.

What captives our minds in this feast is the fact that it addresses the spirit of the childish innocence in us as the Savior says to us: Come o ye man! Cast away the burdens of this world to receive the Lord in Jerusalem! Come and be a child in your soul and pray for That who sits upon a colt, the foal of an ass in order to free the Man from the darkness of death. Behold! Put at His feet the dresses of the old man as the crowd did receiving Him in Jerusalem! Behold and see with childish eyes Who raised Lazarus! Behold and look at Him with the joy of Mary and Martha and open the gate of your heart for Him. Relieve your ears of the world’s noise so you may hear Him: “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”. When the Church arranged the services of Holy Week She crowned it with the event of the Resurrection and put the raising of Lazarus at the beginning to assure that the heart of this liturgical period is resurrectional par excellence. Yesterday She reminded us of Lazarus’ raising, in a few days we will be holding the Divine Liturgy of Holy Pascha. All these tell us that we are made of the Resurrection and live on its anticipation.

At the end of the 19th century Bishop Athanasius Atallah of eternal memory, bishop of Emessa the precious diocese with its good people, he wrote a poem describing this feast. What he has written penetrated our hearts and memorized it repeating it every year: Rejoice, rejoice O Bethany! O this day God came to thee. And in Him the dead are made alive. As it is right for He is the life.

We are called upon to make each one’s heart a “Bethany” despite all the tragedies that surround us and the horrors that happen to our country. We are called upon to trust as we were and as we will remain in God’s power. And hereby we repeat the words of Athanasius Atallah and add: Rejoice, rejoice, O Bethany! On this day God came to thee and in Him the dead are made alive. As it is right for He is the life. Thou came to us, O merciful. A great savior to the world. We do hope O Lord for an abundance of love and peace. O dear Lord bestow upon Syria peace and love and amity. And protect Lebanon’s youth safe and strong with dignity. To Thee o Lord of Creation we kneel down in reverence profound strengthen through Thee O Jesus!

May God preserve these blessed days giving us the life of His divine peace. And protect Syria and the whole world. Amen.

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We are not our own bodies…

Inner-River1An excerpt from Inner River, by Kyriacos Markides

“…..I don’t believe that this can be proven in any strictly scientific sense. But if you connect the evidence to all the other factors that we’ve examined so far, such as the teachings of the great saints and mystics of history, it provides further support. If nothing else, the near-death experience supports the idea that the mind and brain are not one and the same thing. So what you said earlier, that you are only your five senses, is simply not true. One can exist, feel, think, have memories, and observe events happening in this world while one’s body is clinically dead. It means that we are not our own bodies.  Some ivestigators today have coined  the term ‘nonlocality of mind’. Their conclusion is that our brain is simply the instrument for the expression of our mind and personality. What I am trying to say is this: our ability to think, have memories, be aware as personalities with likes and dislikes, have human relationships, develop whatever skills and knowledge while living in this world is not absolutely dependent on a physical body. The physical body is necessary to allow us to live in this world and to develop our conscious mind and personality. But once the body is gone through death, personality continues to be. This is what I think one could rationally and tentatively conclude based on the indirect evidence we have up to this point of our human experience. In short, we continue to be beyond death….”

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The only prayer that passes beyond the veil…

Father Patrick Reardon’s Pastoral Ponderings:

According to the Evangelist Luke, Jesus’ final invocation to the Father included a line from this psalm: ‘Abba, beyadka ‘aphqid rhuchi—”Father, into Thy hands I entrust my spirit!” In his first recorded words the Savior, in anticipation of his redemptive work, declared, “I must be about the things of my Father” (Luke 2:49). Now, in the final prayer before his death, he lays all those “things of my Father” back into the Father’s hands.

Christians do a bold thing in praying this psalm, for they assume to themselves the very voice of the beloved Son. This prayer is made in persona Filii. Jesus directs it to the Father—Abba!—in response to His declaration, “You are My beloved Son, in you I am well pleased!” To pray this psalm is to identify ourselves with that beloved Son, letting him pray through us. In this prayer we express our participation, by divine grace, in his relationship to the Father.

No one, after all, knows the Father except the Son and the one “to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27). Our only access to God is through Christ and the mediation of his atoning blood. Our incorporation into Christ is the foundation of all our prayer. Only in Christ do we call God our Father. The only prayer that passes beyond the veil, to His very throne, is prayer saturated with the redeeming blood of Christ. This is the prayer that cries out more eloquently than the blood of Abel.

In this psalm, then, the voice of Christ becomes our own voice, celebrating the righteousness with which He has redeemed us: “In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust, let me not be put to shame for ever. Deliver me in Thy righteousness (betsidqateka) . . . . Thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth. . . . But I trust in the Lord. I will exult and rejoice in Thy mercy. . . . But as for me, I trust in Thee, O Lord; I say, ‘Thou art my God’ (‘Elohai ‘Attah) . . . Oh, how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast preserved for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast prepared for those who trust in Thee.”

The “righteousness” (tsedeq) of God is our salvation in Christ, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness” (Rom. 3:25).

Likewise, this trust in God is the source of our sanctification, according to the words of the standard Orthodox prayer: “O God . . . who sanctify those who put their trust in You.”

This committing of their souls to God in loving trust is not just one of the things Christians do; it is, rather, the essential feature of the life in Christ: “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19). This is what Jesus accomplished on the Cross.

In this psalm we enter into the sentiments and thoughts of Jesus in his sufferings, ending in the prayer by which he entrusted his life, death, and destiny to the Father. We feel the Passion “from the inside.” In this psalm is recorded the plot, described in the Gospels, to take his life (cf. Mark 3:6; 14:1): “Pull me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me. . . . Fear is on every side; while they take counsel together against me, they scheme to take away my life.”

Here, too, are the false witnesses rising against him (cf. Mark 14:55-59): “Let the lying lips be put to silence, which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.”

Here, as well, we hear of the flight of his friends and the mockery of his enemies (cf. Mark 14:50; 15:29-32): “I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and I am repulsive to those who know me; those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind.”

The reason the voice of Christ in his Passion must become our own voice is that his Passion itself provides the pattern for our own lives. He was very clear on the point: “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues” (Matthew 10:17). And, “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake (24:9).”

Throughout this psalm, therefore, there is an ongoing changing of verbal tenses between past and future. Even as we taste the coming enjoyment of God’s eternal presence, hope’s struggle in this world continues: “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope.”

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The freedom to be yourself

p24_john-of-pergamon1Taken from Communion and Otherness, Metropolitan John Zizioulas

Personhood

Theology and Church life involve a certain conception of the human being: personhood. This term, sanctified through its use in connection with the very being of God and of Christ, is rich in its implications.

The Person is otherness in communion and communion in othernes. The Person is an identity that emerges through relationship (schesis, in the terminology of the Fathers): it is an “I” that can exist only as long as it relates to a “Thou” which affirms its existence and its otherness. If we isolate the “I” from the “Thou”, we lose not only its otherness but also its very being; it simply cannot be without the other. This is what distinguishes the person from the individual.

The Orthodox understanding of the Holy Trinity is the only way to arrive at this concept of Personhood: the Father cannot be conceived for a moment without the Son and the Spirit, and the same applies to the other two Persons in their relation with the Father and with each other. At the same time each of these Persons is so unique that their hypostatic or personal properties are totally incommunicable from one Person to the Other.

Personhood is inconceivable without freedom; it is the freedom of being other. I hesitate to say “different” instead of “other” because “different” can be understood in the sense of qualities (clever, beautiful, holy, etc.), which is not what the person is about. In God all such qualities are common to the each three Persons. Person implies not simply the freedom to have different qualities but mainly the freedom simply to be yourself. This means that a person is not subject to norms and stereotypes and cannot be classified in any way; its uniqueness is absolute. This means that only a person is free in the true sense.

And yet one person is no person; freedom is not freedom from the other but freedom for the other. Freedom becomes identical with love. God is love because He is Trinity. We can love only if we are persons, allowing the other to be truly other and yet be in communion with us. If we love the other not in spite of his or her being different but because they are different from us, or rather other than ourselves, we live in freedom as love and love as freedom.

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Giving up our selves

patriarchholycrossH/T: The Way of the Cross, Ray C. Stedman (here)

…Peter denied that he had any connection with Jesus, said he did not know him, and affirmed his disavowal with oaths and curses. Thus he denied his Lord. This is exactly the word Jesus chooses when he tells us that, if we are going to come after him, we must first deny ourselves.

It is important also to understand that he does not mean what we usually mean by “self-denial.” By this we usually mean that we are giving up something. Many people feel it is only right to deny themselves something during Lent, to give up various bad habits, like wearing overshoes in bed. But Jesus is not talking about this kind of “self-denial.” He is never concerned about what we do so much as with what we are. Therefore he is not talking about giving up luxuries, or even necessities, but about denying self, which is entirely different.

Denying self means that we repudiate our natural feelings about ourselves, i.e., our right to ourselves, our right to run our own lives. We are to deny that we own ourselves. We do not have the final right to decide what we are going to do, or where we are going to go. When it is stated in those terms, people sense immediately that Jesus is saying something very fundamental. It strikes right at the heart of our very existence, because the one thing that we, as human beings, value and covet and protect above anything else is the right to make ultimate decisions for ourselves. We refuse to be under anything or anybody, but reserve the right to make the final decisions of our lives. This is what Jesus is talking about. He is not talking about giving up this or that, but about giving up our selves…

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Memory Eternal, Metropolitan Philip

metropolitanphilipmemorial_1

H/T: Antiochian Archdiocese (here)

The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, with great sadness, announces the passing unto life eternal of His Eminence the Most Reverend Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America. May his memory be eternal! Details are forthcoming.

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