Day and Night

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Father Patrick Henry Reardon’s Pastoral Ponderings:

The opening chapter of Genesis has long been a favorite of Christians, and ancient commentators discovered in its lines profound levels of meaning.

In more recent times, on the other hand, some readers of Genesis, distracted by apologetic concerns alien to the deeper interests of the Sacred Text, have failed to discover those depths. For example, even from boyhood I recall that some of my teachers were preoccupied with the length of the six “days” of Creation. Was it really necessary, they asked, to think of those “days” in the sense of having twenty-four hours? Might they not, instead, represent long periods of Natural History?

No, this is certainly not what the biblical author has in mind. The problem with such questions is that they distract the mind from the deeper message of the Sacred Text. To ask, “how long” these days of Creation are is a distraction. Genesis does not picture the earth as a ball spinning in space. Genesis 1 is not an exercise in Natural History.

Indeed, this is partly the point. In Genesis the setting and rising of the sun are not what determine day and night. With respect to Day One (yom ‘ehad) of Creation we are told, “there was evening and morning,” even though the sun itself had not yet been formed. How can there be evening and morning without a sun? For the Bible that is obviously not a problem. To make it a problem is a distraction.

We modern folk think of the sunlight as that which makes the day, and the absence of sunlight as that which makes the night. However, Holy Scripture and its ancient commentators would have thought these very shallow notions. In the Bible, the sun “marks” the day; it does not create it. The day is still there, so to speak, with or without the sun.

God created the light three days before He created any of the heavenly bodies. Light and darkness in the Creation story exist independent of the sun or anything else. Day and night are simply the names of light and darkness: “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.”

It is important to note that Genesis does not say that God created darkness; darkness was, so to speak, already there. Darkness is nothingness; the night is vestigial non-existence. This is why the Bible’s final book tells us, with respect to heaven, “There shall be no night there” (Revelation 22:5).

Light, on the other hand, is the first thought of God; “Let there be light” are His first recorded words. The light in Genesis is not a by-product of solar energy. It is, rather, the principle of intelligibility in the structure of Creation. The light that God calls into being at the beginning of Genesis is that inner form of meaning that the mind of man, in due course, will be created to discover and investigate.

For much of the modern world, these biblical ideas make no sense at all. The modern world, or at least a great deal of it, does not know that the world is an intelligible place. According to the modern view, intelligibility is not a characteristic of the world itself, but only of the human mind. Modern man thinks he is supposed to “make sense” of the world, not discover a sense that is already there.

The modern world logically reaches this conclusion because it no longer believes in Creation. Instead, the existence of the universe is explained (!) as the random result of physical forces. The modern world knows nothing of “why?” but only “how?” The universe, accordingly, defies a “why” and has only a “how?” That is to say, it has no light except physical light. It has no intrinsic intelligibility, because intelligibility, or “sense,” implies knowable structure, or form (morphe). A “random” world is a world without intelligible structure.

To repudiate the doctrine of Creation is, logically, to deny God’s first act, the calling forth of the light, which is the principle of truth. And here is where the teaching of Genesis becomes deadly serious, because the denial of the light is not just an individual denial. It is the ultimate denial. To foreswear the light of truth is the death of all knowledge. The loss of the light does not leave the mind neutral. It leaves the mind in darkness, an existence forever outside of the truth. In this sense, modern man’s predicament is that of Judas Iscariot, of whom the Bible tells us, “Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night” (John 13:30).

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Great Lent Begins

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Great Lent begins today. We begin it in this household with the sounds of runny noses and coughs and sore throats and other bodily ailments. May it end – after a long journey of fasting and prayer – in both physical and, more importantly, spiritual health.

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The Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija

The much anticipated book, The Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija is finally out. There have already been a few book promotions: the Library of Congress in Washington, Boston, New York, Phoenix, LA. And a few more to come: San Francisco and Chicago.

The book is amazing and a book that should be in the home of every Serb. I purchased mine a few days ago at our Diocesan Annual Assembly. Click here to purchase your copy.

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The Grace of Suffering

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H/T: Notes on Arab Orthodoxy

Met. Georges Khodr:
The Grace of Suffering

Our condition with the Lord is that we are tormented and the Lord is always healing. It is not for us to wonder why we are in pain, why we exist in suffering. Divine revelation does not answer this question. It does not say why we are subjected to suffering, suffering of the body, suffering of the spirit, suffering of the conscience. The Holy Sciptures are content to take notice of this and to start out on this basis to reveal to us how we can escape from this suffering or how we can bear it and transform it into a creative force, a means of drawing near to God, so that we can make it into a ladder by which we climb up to heaven.

Continue to read full text here

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The Spiritual Fast

snowdayIn the spiritual fast the measure is the same and important for all – complete absence for everything that leads to sin. Regarding our abstaining from food, there the measures vary and the manners in which it is used are different: it depends on one’s age, occupation and physical shape. Thus, it is impossible to place everyone in the school of piety under the same rule.  Yet, determining a measure of abstinence for healthy ascetics, we indulge prudence to the superior that he make wise changes. The diet of those who are sick, or weary from hard work, or one who go to heavy labor, on the road or whatever difficult job, the superior must manipulate optionally. For it is not wise to take food which is for the nourishment of the body and hinder it from carrying out the commandments.  In every food group we must assume the one that is easiest to obtain, so that we not concern ourselves with the preparation of favorite and expensive foods, all with the excuse of the Fast.

St. Basil the Great

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Peace is our daily need

“….We are still, brothers and sisters, living in the the Divine joy. We remain in that still joy and grace of the cave of Bethlehem, which is the ambiance and atmosphere we feel. That atmosphere and ambiance is far from the crowds, noise, festivities and glare of this world, for the Son of God, Jesus Christ, did not come to this world to amaze us with His rule, power and might; rather, He came to reconcile man with God, and we – be reconciled with God – to be reconciled with one another. What is more important today, brothers and sisters, than peace? Peace is our daily need…..”

Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagred and Ljubljana

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Be zealous and repent

VespersphotoFather Pat’s Pastoral Ponderings

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church is not only original, unique, and exclusive, it is also permanent. This gift is as irrevocable as the Incarnation itself. Much as the event of the Word’s enfleshment irrevocably links the Second Person of the Holy Trinity to the human race, the event of Pentecost joins the Third Person of the Holy Trinity permanently to the Church. Both conjunctions are irreversible.

The Holy Spirit will never abandon the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Although individual believers may make shipwreck of the faith (1 Timothy 1:19), the ship of the Church will never sink. And although individual churches may suffer the removal of their lamp stands (Revelation 2:5), the Church herself remains infallibly the dwelling of God with men.

Three things in the Church are inseparable: the Resurrection of Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the Church’s authority to forgive sins. Because the power of sin was destroyed by what God accomplished in Christ, the remission of sins pertains to the essence of the Gospel.

The Evangelist John made clear this inseparability when he described the first appearance of the risen Christ to the assembled Church:

“During the evening on that same day-day one of the week-when the doors were shut where, out of fear for the Jews, the disciples were assembled, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and side. Seeing the Lord, the disciples rejoiced. So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent me, I also send you.’ And saying this, he breathed and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain them, they are retained’ (John 20:19-23).

The apostolic authority to forgive sins is presented here as pertinent to the very mission of the Church: As the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

The Resurrection of Christ is proclaimed, therefore, not just as a past event but also as the source of an abiding power within in the Church. The forgiveness of sins is a present and permanent operation of the Holy Spirit, who is inseparably united to God’s People. It is the Holy Spirit who preserves in the Church the authority to remit—in God’s name—all the sins the Lamb of God took away by his Passion, death, and Resurrection.

In preaching what God accomplished in the death and Resurrection of Christ, the Church also summons sinners to the forgiveness made available by that accomplishment. The two things are, as it were, the two halves of the Gospel: “Thus it is written [1] that the Messiah should suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and [2] that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47).

When the Holy Spirit does descend on the Church, we see this juxtaposition exactly. The apostolic word first declares, “This Jesus God has raised up” (Acts 2:32), and then, as a moral necessary consequence, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (2:38).

Because the Holy Spirit confers the authority to forgive sins, it is hardly surprising that the Holy Spirit also calls men to repentance. This summons of the Spirit appears in John’s letters to the seven churches:

To Ephesus: “Repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place-unless you repent. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

To Pergamos: “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

To Laodicea: “Therefore be zealous and repent. . . . He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

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