The Sixth Sunday of Pascha gives to the Church the account of Jesus’ healing of the man born blind. In this Sunday’s gospel reading (John 9: 1 – 38), Jesus and his disciples come upon a man born blind. The disciples ask Jesus who sinned that he was born blind. Was it the parents or the man? Jesus answers, “Neither this one nor his parents sinned.” Our Lord gives the ultimate answer: “[He was born blind] in order that the works of God might be manifested in him” (John 9: 3). This is an astounding answer, and it should speak volumes to us as we move through the difficulties of our lives.
We have asked this question, “Why me? Why did this happen to me?” We have heard others ask the question as well. The common, unthinking — usually unspoken — answer is “I don’t know.” But, it reveals more of the person when an addendum is added to the question: “Why didn’t this happen to someone else?” To this question the answer is, “To whom would you have this happen? To whom would you wish your misfortune?” No one wants difficulties, hardships, misfortunes, or suffering. But, though unwanted, they come our way and mess up our happy lives. Thus, when the question is asked, “Why me?”, let our answer be, “In order that the work of God might be manifested in me!” When we give this answer, we answer in faith. Further, we bring to life St. Paul’s teaching: “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all things, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes 5: 16 – 18). With this answer and purpose in mind, I wish to offer this understanding of this day’s gospel.
Prior to today’s theme, we have read of the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection: the apostle St. Thomas, and then the myrrh bearing women. These two Sundays’ themes declare to us the fact of the resurrection. Today’s theme is quite different: we are asked to confront the weaknesses and sins which remain in our lives in light of our Lord’s resurrection. This day, we return to a lenten-like consciousness to bring our lives in line with Christ’s light and life.
The gospel reading comes from John 5: 1 – 15. We have a description of the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem, and we are informed the pool was surrounded by the ill, the blind, the paralyzed, and the crippled. They all waited for the pool’s water to be “disturbed” by an angel: the first one in upon the disturbance was cured. Among those near the pool was a paralytic who “was ill for 38 years.” Jesus approaches the man (whose name is not given) and asks him: “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5: 6). This man then explains his dilemma: “I have no man that could cast me into the pool when the water is disturbed. While I am going another descends into the pool before me” (John 5: 7). Jesus then acts to heal him apart from the pool’s water. “Jesus says to him, ‘arise, take up you mat and walk.’ And immediately the man became healed and took up his mat and walked” (John 5: 8 – 9).
The Agape Vespers, which close the first day of the Feast of Feasts, put forward the Gospel reading of John 20: 19 – 25. In this passage, Jesus appears to the disciples in his glorified body. He commissions them as his apostles, exhales the Holy Spirit to them, and then is gone. Thomas was absent. Upon his return the others declare to him their experience, and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. But, Thomas doubts: “Unless I cast my finger into the nail wholes in his hands, and cast my hand into his side [wound from the roman’s spear], I shall not believe” (John 20: 25). His doubts will last only another week:
And after eight days his disciples were inside and Thomas was with them. While the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace to you.” Then he says to Thomas, “Place your finger here and behold my hands and cast you hand into my side, and do not be faithless, but faithful!” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 26 – 28).
Joy, gratitude (or thankfulness), and trust are attitudes of faith. These are not optional, but are essential. By the exercise of these attitudes, they are strengthened within our lives and become attributes. By such exercise, faith is increased in our lives. The exercise of these attitudes also leads to deeper prayer, charity, and discipline, and other virtues of our faith. Psalm 15, according to the Septuagint accounting of the Psalms, Psalm 16 by the Masoretic accounting (common in western traditions), is an inspired declaration of joy, gratitude and trust.
When the Church comes to Forgiveness Sunday, she is at the very threshold of Lent. Lent begins the next day, and we then walk in its themes, hymns, and preparations for the coming glorious day of Pascha. During the weeks of Lent, we are not to be grumbling about its disciplines. Even more, we are not to be gloomy and downcast. No, we are to engage Lent with a joyful, thankful energy. Why? Because we are to engage these weeks working with the Holy Spirit that we might be revived spiritually.
The Sunday of the Prodigal Son is the second pre-Lenten Sunday. The gospel reading for the day, is of course, from St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ parable. This parable is well known — even among those who embrace secularism and have never heard from, or read from, the Scriptures.
As we all know, a father’s youngest, selfish, and ungrateful son shockingly asks his father for his portion of his inheritance while his father is still alive. The father agrees and gives it to this son. The son of course leaves for a distant country where he squanders his wealth in immoral living. He comes to poverty, and a famine hits this land. He is forced to the despicable role of tending swine. He awakens to his condition and repents. He plans to return to his father, family, and home, but as a hireling — he is no longer worthy of sonship. His rehearsed confession before his father is composed, “I have sinned before heaven, and before you!” He journeys home in shame. However, his father graciously embraces his repentant son. The son is clothed, welcomed, and feasted back into the company of the family — as a son! All is forgiven, and all is restored!
I love acoustic guitars. There’s a T-shirt that sums it up for me. It reads, “Love one woman, many guitars.” I think I just fell in love today with a guitar I met at Tacoma’s, if not western Washington’s, best music store: Ted Brown Music. A sales associate named Steve introduced me to Yamaha’s new LL-TA dreadnought. OK, so it may only be infatuation, but let me tell you about this guitar.
Honestly, I haven’t cared for the vast majority of the Yamahas I’ve played. Several years ago I picked up a LL bodied 12-string, and immediately put it back — stiff and lifeless. However, I have truly appreciated their A Series dreadnoughts. This Yamaha dreadnought caught my eye. I pulled it off its wall mount and began playing the Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset.” I was impressed by the easy playability, and its very open, clear, and pleasant tone. Steve saw my attention and informed me of its truly unique and incredibly innovative electronic feature: in-built chorusing and reverb! Unplugged you are able to access reverb and chorusing! The TA stands for Trans Acoustic — it is self-amplified, or better, self-effected. Wow! Then, after Steve set up a bass amp (YES, a Fender Rumble 500 watt head and cab) this feature came alive like no other acoustic-electric I own, or have ever played! Wow, and wow! In this new universe, the Kinks’ “Village Green,” the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” and “Norwegian Wood” — songs I’ve played for years — sounded completely new to me. Wow, wow, and wow!
Whether it’s literature, music, cinema, or anything creative, I view the work and critique it through a theological lens. Richard Adams’ wonderful book, Watership Down receives the same treatment. I have written of the spiritual dimensions of the characters in earlier postings, e.g. Hazel, Bigwig, and Lord El-ahrairah. While reading through the book’s pages I noted many times the biblical parallels that Adams places in his first work. In this posting there will be a few examples of biblical references, or allusions. The mythology and primitive religion in this novel has no direct correspondence to Christianity — Adams does not write an allegory. In fact, Adams has stated in interviews that he intended no spiritual or religious theme to be in the book. But, again, parallels and allusions are found — and with some you would have to be a bit myopic not to see them.
A passage from St. Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews regarding Jesus Christ as our High Priest reads,
For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (Heb 7: 26 — 27).
The phrase in the above text of interest is “once for all” coming from the Greek word ephapax. This word has brought about a good deal of argument from Protestants. Let me make it clear: it is not the Eastern Orthodox position, nor Roman Catholic position, that the bloodless sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy (or the Latin Mass) is a re-offering of Christ. In other words Christ is NOT sacrificed again, as far too many ill-informed Protestants teach about our understanding of this sacrament. No, the sacrifice of Christ was done once, and done for all! It is very clear in the Orthodox Church’s prayers found in the anaphora and elsewhere in the Eucharistic prayers, that the offering of the Eucharist is a thanksgiving offering, reasonable, and bloodless. The prayers of the Eucharist make this very clear — Christ’s once for all sacrifice is RE-presented to us by the Eucharist!
When Christmas is about two weeks away the Church commemorates the ancestors of Christ. On this Sunday Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and many other men and women are remembered and honored. All were flawed, but all proved, in the end, to be faithful. One by one their lives of faith in the flesh led to the birth of Christ who took flesh from their daughter, Mary. Here in their numbers we find a family. This lineage begins with Abraham and Sarah, expands into multitudes, and then is compressed to one young virgin from whom the One prophesied about takes flesh. From him we have another expansion into the multitudes of all who have faith in Jesus Christ. In our numbers we, too, are incorporated by adoption into this family of faith.
I first learned of the existence of Faith guitars about two or three years ago. I was, naturally, intrigued by the name: I am a priest, and thus I am all for faith. If you go to their website you will find a wide array of acoustic guitars, all designed by owner and master luthier Patrick James Eggle. His guitars have a solid following in the U.K., and the brand has won the award of the U.K’s Best Acoustic Guitar for four consecutive years. Rather impressive. The brand is now available in the United States as a new British Invasion. And just like the lads from Liverpool, the reviewed guitar is FAB!
In August, 2016 Doxacon Seattle took place at South Seattle College. This year’s Doxacon theme took on the contrast of Darkness and Light. The following podcast is the recording of my presentation on the emergence of the rabbits of Richard Adam’s fabulous story from darkness and death into light and life; their emergence from restriction into full expression of being and person as they imitate their Lord El-ahrairah. It is a story of their salvation. It is thus, a story of our own salvation in Christ as we as Christians imitate our Lord Jesus Christ. The link below comes from Ancient Faith Radio.
“California Dreamin’” is one great pop song. It was written by John and Michelle Phillips while living in New York City in 1963. Their version of the song was released in December, 1965, and, well, the rest is history. “California Dreamin’” is, in my opinion, the signature song of the Mamas and the Papas. It remains an evergreen song, and is a boatload of fun to play on acoustic guitar.
After dropping off an old appliance at a recycling center, I thought I’d swing by Ted Brown Music in Tacoma — just a slight detour. I recently learned of an addition to Fender’s Paramount acoustic line up. It is an all mahogany dreadnought. Ted Brown Music carries the Paramount line in addition to a nice selection of Fender electrics. My friend Gary at Ted Brown saw me walk into the acoustic room of the store. I asked him if there were any new arrivals. “We have a number,” he said. Then he added, “we have a new Paramount — the mahogany one.” That’s exactly the guitar I wanted to see. Could this be providence? He brought out the unopened box (I have never seen a freshly opened guitar before — quite an opportunity). “Do you want to give it a try?” Well, YES!
The scriptural readings for the 17th day after Pentecost are 2 Corinthians 6: 16 – 7:1, and the St. Luke 8: 5 -15, or the epistle and gospel respectively. From the epistle we read St. Paul’s words which he, in part, takes from both the Law and Prophets:
For you are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I shall indwell and walk among them, I shall be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor 6: 16).
Thus, the Triune God desires relationship with humanity. The Creator desires communion with his creatures. St. Paul is in agreement with St. John’s recording of Jesus’ words found in his High Priestly Prayer: “in order that all might be one, just as you, Father are in me and I in you, in order that even they might be in us…” (John 17: 21). Our salvation is not simply a juridical reality — a legal absolving of guilt. Christian salvation is a relational union with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus speaks of this union with himself by the Eucharist: “The one who is eating my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6: 56).
Quality and value: these are two traits that any consumer wants coupled together when considering a purchase. Sometimes this combo is elusive, but in today’s guitar market these two qualities are the norm in this “golden age” of modern lutherie. In fact, you have to be most unlucky to buy a “lemon” of a guitar. So, I come to this review of the Cordoba Acero D10-ce, a guitar that fully embodies both quality and value in an all sold wood import package.
The Old Testament Scriptures speak of an acceptable hour. St. Paul also uses this phrase to declare the importance — even urgency — of reconciliation to God. He writes this quoting the prophet Isaiah: “‘In the acceptable time I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6: 2).
I had the privilege of serving The Divine Liturgy at St. Katherine’s Church in Pullman, Washington on October 9, 2016. The above passage came from the epistle reading of the day (2 Cor 6: 1—10). The epistle preceded the Gospel reading which relays the account of Jesus’ raising to life the only son of the widow of the city of Nain (Luke 7: 11 — 16). In this gospel pericope there are two very contrasting gatherings and processions. Here we have the description of the first gathering: “And it happened in the next day while he was going to the city of Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd were going with him (Luke 7: 11).” This gathering is assembled around Jesus. This gathering is assembled around his Life and Light. The other gathering has assembled for a quite different purpose. “Now as he drew near the city gate, there was a burial procession of mother’s dead only son, and she was a widow, and a great crowd was together with her” (Luke 7: 12). This assembly gathered around death and grief.
The lectionary for seventh Sunday after Pentecost gives us the Gospel account of the healing of two blind men. The duo follow Jesus and cry out to him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Upon entering a house these two men approach Jesus. Jesus says to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They reply, “Yes, Lord.” Then “[Jesus] touched their eyes saying, ‘According to your faith let this be for you.’ “And their eyes were opened” (Mt 9: 27 — 30). For these two men the first object they see is their Healer, their Savior — the One who is God Incarnate. How blessed were those four eyes!
Others of us were born sighted. The first object we laid eyes on (however imperfectly as newborns) was likely the face of our mother, itself also a blessing. As sighted infants and then children we took in the creation around us with frequent awe and wonder. We saw creation through eyes of innocence. As a child I had eyes that took no account of the size of my friends’ houses, the cars their parents drove, and took no care of the occupation of father or mother.