Out with the Old Testament….

….and in with the New?  Fr. John in his blog, Fr John Whiteford’s News, Comments, & Reflections (here) questions the interpretation of some Orthodox regarding the validity of Old Testament moral law. 

The Continuing Validity of the Moral Law of the Old Testament

One of the earliest heresies that the Church had to confront was the Marcionite heresy, which taught that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of the New Testament. The God of the Old Testament was evil, whereas the God of the New Testament was good. Consequently Marcion rejected the entire Old Testament, as well as much of the New Testament. The Church decisively rejected Marcion’s view, and emphatically affirmed that the Old Testament belongs to the Church.

Since Marcion’s time, echos of his disdain for the Old Testament have continued to reverberate. Recently, Lazar Puhalo, has voiced such disdain. Lazar Puhalo was a deacon in ROCOR, who was deposed in 1981. From 1981 until he was received as a “retired” bishop by the OCA, he was in a series of vagante jurisdictions where he was ordained a priest, then a bishop, and then raised to archbishop. He is referred to as a retired OCA bishop, but this gives the false impression that he was once an active OCA bishop, when in reality, he has never been an active priest or bishop of any legitimate Orthodox jurisdiction. However, now that he has the air of legitimacy about him, he has used this platform to promote all sorts of strange ideas, including his view that transgenderism is acceptable. He is a regular contributor to a pro-homosexual Facebook group, where the only views he sees a need to criticize are the views of those who defend the traditions of the Church which condemn homosexuality. It is this advocacy of moral perversion that lies behind his desire to dismiss the moral law of the Old Testament.

In this video, Lazar Puhalo claims that the moral law has been “done away with”. He claims, for example, that Christ “absolutely contradicts” the law against breaking the Sabbath, but what do the Fathers say? St. John Chrysostom says “Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable [the laws concerning the Sabbath]? Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it” (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 39:3). He misquotes Colossians 2:14 as saying “The manuscript of the Law was been torn up”. What that passage actually says is “Blotting out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross, and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:14-15). In Lazar Puhalo’s version, the suggestion is that the text of the Law of Moses is done away with, whereas in the actual citation, it is the sentence against us that is blotted out and nailed to the cross.

Expressing his disdain for the Law, when speaking of the woman caught in adultery, he says that the law called for the woman to be stoned, but for the man to just pay a fine. The law actually called for both the man and the woman to be put to death: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).

Of course, there are differences between the Old and New Covenants. The Old Covenant anticipated the New Covenant, and was given to people who were at a very low level of spiritual understanding. The harsh penalties that are often found in the Old Testament law were due to this. St. John Chrysostom, commenting on the law which condemned Sabbath breakers to death, said that it was “Because if the laws were to be despised even at the beginning, of course they would scarcely be observed afterwards” (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew 39:3). But while the harsh and immediate penalties for the violation of the law are relaxed in the New Testament, the strictness of the laws themselves are not only not relaxed, but are rather enhanced. Just as you spank younger children, but expect less of them, and expect more of older children, without spanking them, the Old Testament dealt with the Israelites where they were, but brought them gradually to a higher level of spiritual understanding.

St. Paul states clearly the value of the Old Testament:

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

And when St. Paul speaks of “doctrine” he does not limit doctrine to abstract theological concepts, but also to question of orthopraxis (right living):

“…that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust (1 Timothy 1:9-11).

It is clear that for St. Paul, applying the moral law of the Old Testament to moral issues, such as fornication or sodomy, is entirely appropriate.

It is true that liturgy of the New Testament has changed. We are not saved by the works of the law, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4) — it was not possible in the Old Testament, and it is not possible in the New Testament. The saints of the Old Testament were saved by faith in Christ just as the saints of the New Testament are. The Old Covenant Ceremonies pointed forward to Christ, and our services point to the Christ that has been revealed to us. As St. Augustine put it, “The New Testament in the Old is concealed; The Old Testament in the New is revealed.” “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry [liturgy], inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). But it should be pointed out that it is in the Old Testament that we first read “The Just shall live by Faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).

St. Paul never suggests that the moral law of the Old Testament is done away with, in fact he states just the opposite: “And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law” (1 Corinthians 9:20-21). And what is the Law of Christ? Lazar Puhalo answers this question by citing the two great commandments, but fails to recall that they are found in the Old Testament:

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

“…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).

There are civil laws and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament that do no longer apply to us directly, though they continue to have instructive value to us. But the moral law of God is unchanging:

“For all things that, according to the Law, went before, whether in the circumcision of the flesh, or in the multitude of victims, or in the keeping of the Sabbath, testified of Christ, and foretold the grace of Christ. And He is “the end of the Law,” not by annulling, but by fulfilling its meanings. For although He is at once the Author of the old and of the new, yet He changed the symbolic rites connected with the promises, because He accomplished the promises and put an end to the announcement by the coming of the Announced. But in the matter of moral precepts, no decrees of the earlier Testament are rejected, but many of them are amplified by the Gospel teaching: so that the things which give salvation are more perfect and clearer than those which promise a Saviour” (Sermon 63:5, St. Leo the Great).

“There are two distinguishable parts in Moses’ law: the religious-moral and the national-ceremonial which was closely tied with the history and way of life of the Jewish nation. The second aspect is gone into the past for Christians, that is, the national-ceremonial rules and laws, but the religious-moral laws preserve their force in Christianity. Therefore, all the ten commandments in the law of Moses are obligatory for Christians. Christianity has not altered them. On the contrary, Christianity has taught people to understand these commandments, not externally – literalistically, in the manner of blind, slavish obedience, and external fulfillment, but it has revealed the full spirit and taught the perfect and full understanding and fulfillment of them. For Christians, however, Moses’ law has significance only because its central commandments (the ten which deal with love of God and neighbors) are accepted and shown forth by Christianity. We are guided in our life not by this preparatory and temporary law of Moses, but by the perfect and eternal law of Christ. St Basil the Great says, “If one who lights a lamp before himself in broad daylight seems strange, then how much stranger is one who remains in the shadow of the law of the Old Testament when the Gospel is being preached.” The main distinction of the New Testament law from that of the Old Testament consists in that the Old Testament law looked at the exterior actions of man, while the New Testament law looks at the heart of man, at his inner motives. Under the Old Testament law, man submitted himself to God as a slave to his master, but under the New Testament, he strives toward submitting to Him as a son submits to a beloved father” (On the Law of God, by Metropolitan Philaret (Voskresensky), Translated by Hieromonk Varlaam Novakshonoff).

The Old Testament allowed some things due to human weakness. For example, divorce for any reason was allowed in the Old Testament. Slavery within certain bounds was allowed in the Old Testament. However, the law did not mandate either. It allowed them. In the New Testament, when Christ confronted the woman caught in adultery, he did not impose the death penalty on her. However, he did not say, “Go, it is a sin no more”. He said “Go and sin no more.” How did she know what was a sin and what was not a sin, because of the moral law of God. Christ did not weaken the law on the question of adultery… he enhanced it. It is more strict in the New Testament, not less. And so why would we assume that the New Testament would lessen the law on the question of Homosexuality? There is no basis for doing so… not to mention that the New Testament specifically condemns homosexuality in several places.

Soul and Mind

H/T: The Abandoned Mind (here), taken from a sermon about the Widow of Nain, tomorrow’s gospel lesson:

“….the Blessed Theophylact wrote in his commentary that the widow can be said to represent the soul which has lost its husband, the Word of God. The son of that widow portrays the mind which is dead and is being carried outside of the city, that is, outside of the heavenly Jerusalem which is the city of the living. And so when the soul of man is separated from the Word of God, the mind of man becomes dead. The funeral bier which the Lord touched represents the body of man which, when touched by grace, gives life also to the mind and raises it back up. The young man sits up and begins to speak, which represents the mind now restored by grace to proclaim the truth of the gospel. The mind which is dead cannot speak the truth of God nor even comprehend it, for it is dark and lifeless. Thus we see that in every action of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is not only an immediate result, but a profound spiritual meaning as well…..”

Islamist Fires at US Embassy

H/T: Google News (here); I suspect this would have been better covered had the shooter been Serbian.

Suspected Islamist fires at Sarajevo US embassy

SARAJEVO — A suspected radical Islamist opened fire on the US embassy in Sarajevo on Friday wounding a police guard in what a Bosnian leader condemned as a “senseless terrorist attack”.

Bosnia’s intelligence chief later said they had arrested a Serbian national with ties to the local Wahhabi community, a radical branch of Islam.

But a police officer guarding the building in the Bosnian capital was seriously wounded, police said.

Local television showed video footage of a bearded man carrying a Kalashnikov rifle.

A special police unit shot and injured the suspect before arresting him, Irfan Nefic told national BHT television.

“The person who fired an automatic weapon was wounded and arrested during the police operation,” he said.

“After receiving medical treatment on the scene the person was hospitalised.”

A statement from the US embassy, which closed after the incident, confirmed that the building “had been attacked with an automatic weapon” and had been hit “several times”.

“I firmly condemn the terrorist attack on the US embassy in Bosnia-Hercegovina,” Bakir Izetbegovic, the Muslim member of Bosnia’s three-man presidency said in a statement.

Following the attack, Bosnia’s acting president Zeljko Komsic met US ambassador Patrick Moon.

He told him that Bosnia was capable of “guaranteeing the security of all US citizens and diplomatic representatives” in the country.

“Our country is not a haven for terrorists,” he stressed, as the presidency said it had called a special meeting of all Bosnian police branches.

“I expect the competent authorities to carry out a quick and efficient investigation of this senseless act,” he added.

“I was waiting for a tram when I saw right next to me this guy armed with a rifle firing at the embassy,” Igor Parac told AFP.

“People started running in all directions.”

Another eyewitness, Admir Hrenovica, told BHR1 television the gun shots had lasted around 15 minutes.

“I first heard several bursts of gunfire and then single shots. People close to me threw themselves on the ground. It was total panic,” he said.

Bosnia’s intelligence chief Almir Dzuvo said the suspect was Mevlid Jasarevic, 23, a Serbian national with ties to the local Wahhabi community.

“He crossed the border (between Bosnia and Serbia this morning,” he said.

The head of Serbian police Milorad Veljovic said officers were searching the suspect’s residence in the southern Serbian city of Novi Pazar, home to a large Muslim community.

Serbian broadcaster B92 reported that Serbian police had stepped up security around the US embassy in Belgrade following the Sarajevo incident.

Serbian police said the suspected gunman had been arrested in Serbia last year when police found him carrying a knife during a visit by Mary Warlick, US ambassador to Serbia, to the Sandzak region on the border between Serbia and Montenegro, which has an important Muslim community.

Bosnia is home to a small minority of followers of Wahhabism, a strict and ultra-conservative branch of Islam which is dominant in Saudi Arabia.

During Bosnia’s 1992-95 war between its Croat, Muslim and Serb communities, a large number of volunteers from Muslim nations flocked to the Balkan country to take up arms.

Many of these Muslim fighters stayed on after the conflict ended and obtained Bosnian citizenship. Some in the mostly moderate Bosnian Muslim community have converted to this more radical branch of Islam.

The local security forces have been cracking down on the Wahhabis. In the summer of 2010 suspected radical Islamists attacked a police station in central Bosnia killing one officer.

Venerable Mother Paraskeva – St. Petka

H/T: Mystagogy (here)

Saint Paraskeva the New was born into a pious family, living during the eleventh century in the village of Epivato, between Silistra and Constantinople. Her older brother Euthymius became a monk, and later he was consecrated as Bishop of Matidia. One day, while attending the divine services with her mother at the age of ten, the words of the Lord pierced her heart like an arrow, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt. 16:24). From that time she began to distribute her clothing to the needy, for which reason she endured much grief from her family.

After the death of her parents Paraskeva went to Constantinople, a city full of churches with many relics and wonder-working icons. There she met some zealous ascetics who instructed her in the spiritual life. She settled at the church of the Most Holy Theotokos in Heraclea Pontica where she spent five years in concentrated prayer and fasting before making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she had long desired to venerate those places where our Saviour had lived and walked. She did not return to Constantinople but, yearning to withdraw still further from the world and its distractions, she crossed the River Jordan into the wilderness. There she lived the ascetic life until she reached the age of twenty-five. An angel of the Lord ordered her to return to her homeland, saying: “Leave the wilderness and return to your homeland; it is necessary that you render your body to the earth there, and your soul to the habitation of the Lord.” St. Paraskeva obeyed, and returned to Epivato in the village of Katikratia where she lived for two years in ceaseless fasting and prayer.

St. Paraskeva departed to the Lord at the age of twenty-seven, and was buried near the sea. She was given a Christian burial, but as no one knew who she was or where she was from, she was buried in an unmarked grave. It pleased God, however, to reveal the glory of His saint. Years after her repose, the body of a dead sailor washed ashore. It had already begun to decay and give off a horrible stench before a stylite saint nearby detected it and asked the villagers to bury it. They unknowingly dug the grave right over the relics of St. Paraskeva. That night, one of the grave-diggers, a pious man by the name of George, had a dream. He saw a queen seated on a throne, surrounded by a glorious company of soldiers. One of them said to him, “George, why did you disdain the body of St. Paraskeva and bury a stinking corpse with it? Make haste and transfer the body of the Saint to a worthy place, for God desires to glorify His servant on earth.” Then St. Paraskeva herself spoke: “George, dig up my relics at once. I can’t bear the stench of that corpse.” And she told him who she was and that she was originally from Epivato. That same night, a devout woman, Euphemia, had a similar dream.

On being told about these dreams the next morning, the villagers took lighted candles and went to the cemetery, where they dug down and discovered St. Paraskeva’s relics, fragrant and incorrupt. The relics were taken to the church of the Apostles Peter and Paul, where, by the prayers of the holy ascetic, many people were healed of various diseases and the blind received their sight. She remained there for about 175 years.

St Paraskeva’s relics were moved to Trnovo, Bulgaria in 1238 and placed in the cathedral. Patriarch Euthymius wrote her Life and established the day of her commemoration as October 14. The Turks occupied Bulgaria in 1391, and her relics were given to Mircea the Elder, Prince of the Romanian Land (one of the districts of Romania). In 1393 the relics were given to Princess Angelina of Serbia (July 30), who brought them to Belgrade in the Ružica Church. When Belgrade fell to Ottoman forces in 1521, the relics were translated to Constantinople and placed in the patriarchal cathedral.

In 1641, during the time of Patriarch Parthenius the Old of Constantinople (1639-1644) and of the Moldavian Prince Vasily Voevod, the Patriarchate of Constantinople found itself in great financial need. The Patriarch arranged with Prince Basil to give him the relics of St. Paraskeva in return for a sum of money. He lowered the holy relics over the fortified wall of Phanar and they were secretly transported to Jassy (Iasi).

On June 13, 1641, her incorrupt relics were transferred to the Monastery of the Three Hierarchs at Jassy in Romania, where many healings took place. On December 26, 1888, after being rescued from a fire, St. Paraskeva’s relics were moved again. This time they were placed in the Metropolitan Cathedral at Jassy, where they remain until the present day.

Water from St. Paraskeva’s spring in Belgrade has effected many cures for those who with faith call upon her intercession.

A severe drought in 1946-47 affected Moldavia, adding to the misery left by the war. Metropolitan Justinian Marina permitted the first procession featuring the coffin containing the relics of Saint Paraskeva, kept at Iaşi since then. The relics wended their way through the drought-deserted villages of Iaşi, Vaslui, Roman, Bacău, Putna, Neamţ, Baia and Botoşani Counties. The offerings collected on this occasion were distributed, based on Metropolitan Justinian’s decisions, to orphans, widows, invalids, school cafeterias, churches under construction, and to monasteries in order to feed the sick, and old or feeble monks.