Saturday, December 31, 2005
Most notable are the exact descriptions of the crucifixion within this psalm, seen in vv. 7-8 (cf. Matt. 27:39-43), v. 15 (cf. Jn. 19:28) and v. 18 (cf. Jn. 19:23-4).
Fr. Patrick draws our attention to the quotation of this psalm found in the second chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews, where the Passion is given its proper context of "the Lord's sharing our flesh and blood so that 'through death He might destroy him who had the power of death' (2:14). Quoting Psalm 21 in this context of the Passion, the author tells us that Jesus 'is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, "I will declare Your name to my brethren; / In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You"' (2:11,12)."
Appropriate that this psalm ends in the same manner as did our Lord's predictions of His crucifixion: with the victory of His Resurrection (cf. Mk. 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). "My spirit lives for Him; my seed will serve Him," the psalm declares. "The coming generation shall be herald for the Lord, declaring His righteousness to a people yet unborn, whom the Lord created."
The first thing, of course, that jumped out at this married man was the fact that this is the prokeimenon sung at weddings before the reading of the epistle. It's usually mentioned by the priest in every homily I've ever heard at Orthodox weddings (my own included), and it's interesting to consider what it means to a married couple and to then compare it to what it means when this psalm is taken in a christological sense. Those crowns they put on our heads (see My Big Fat Greek Wedding for an example of the crowns if you've never seen an Orthodox wedding...though that wedding left much to be desired from an Orthodox standpoint, but I digress!) are seen to be crowns of martyrdom, both in submitting to each other and laying down our lives one for another, but also in the sense that we are to assist each other in our salvation, a life of "white martyrdom" that revolves around presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1) together, and urging each other on to further good works.
Taken in the sense that this psalm speaks of Christ, however, this verse refers to His crown, not of thorns, but of "pure gold" (the common translation in our prokeimenon is "of precious stones"), speaking not of His Passion on the Cross, but of His glorious Resurrection and victory over death. "By reason of His Resurrection," says Fr. Patrick, "Jesus reigns as King.... And because He is King, He is crowned." The phrase that follows His coronation, then--"He asked life of You"--what sort of life did Christ ask of the Father while enduring His Passion? "The mere survival of His earthly body?" Fr. Patrick asks. "Hardly. The object of Jesus' prayer was, rather, the total life that stands forever victorious over death, the irruption of the divine life into the world by reason of His own passage through death to glory." How fitting, then, that spouses should look to each other--the ones to whom we have been crowned in anticipation, even before the struggle's end--as the ones with whom we can journey through this life, side by side, enduring together in a passion of our own--one that has little, if anything, to do with what this world defines as "marital passion"--so that they may "finally, by [God's] mercy, [be accounted] worthy of everlasting life"--the life asked for and obtained by Christ on our behalf--and that, through union with Him, we might share in the true reality of the crowns we wore and for which we now strive.
Friday, December 30, 2005
I'll just offer an outline of Fr. Patrick's dissection of this matins psalm in the Orthodox Church:
- This psalm is a prayer of the Church to Christ Himself, an "Amen to the redemptive work of Christ."
- "...the line that reads, 'All your sacrifices'...is the 'Amen' of the Church to the pouring out of the redemptive blood..."
- "When we say, 'May He give you according to your heart's desire'...it is once again the 'Amen' of the Church to the prayer Christ makes for her benefit" (Jn. 17:20-4).
- "When we say, 'May the LORD fulfill all your requests,' it is especially the 'Amen' of the Church to such petitions as (Luke 23:34; Jn. 17:11).
- "When we say to Him, 'We shall exult in Your salvation'...thus does she (the Church) exult... (Rev. 5:9-10, 12)."
- When the Prophet David (as well as Isaiah--31:1; 36:9) says that "some trust in chariots, and some in horses," Fr. Patrick notes that "Holy Scripture wil finally describe these horses as white and carrying a conqueror, as red and bearing a warrior, as black and transporting famine, as pale and ridden by Death" in an ultimate betrayal of those who put their trust in anyone other than God.
- While our psalm states, in agreement with Heb. 7:25 and 9:12, that "Now I know that the LORD has saved His Christ," it also confesses, along with 1 Jn. 3:2, that "We shall be magnified" ultimately at some point in the future.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
"The Christian faith," Fr. Patrick begins, "recognizes two ways in which God has made His revelation to us: through nature and through grace. 'Through Creation and through Scripture' is another way of saying the same thing." In a well-known verse in this psalm, sung often in the Divine Liturgy of Orthodox services (the prokeimenon before the epistle and in other places) the Prophet David states, referring to all the wonders of nature, that "Their sound has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world" in declaring the glory of God (vs. 4).
St. Paul takes up this line in the New Testament, saying that the missionaries who take the message of the gospel out to those who do not know Christ are working, as it were, hand in hand with nature. He asks the believers in Rome, "have they [the people of the world] not heard? Yes indeed: 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world'" (10:8). "Paul is saying," notes Fr. Patrick, "that the Gospel is as cosmic as the cosmos."
This is one aspect of God's revelation of Himself--as well as our part in that revealing of Him to our fellow man--that has always fascinated me, as well as put me at odds with many (though by no means all) Evangelicals when I was in that camp. It's been refreshing to come into a confession of Christianity which strongly affirms our link with the rest of creation, sentient as we humans are, or not. The universe, though groaning as in the pains of childbirth and waiting for Christ, Who is our Life, to appear and complete our adoption as sons and our (as well as its own) full redemption (Rom. 8:21-23; Col. 3:4), yet does a more faithful job of declaring steadfastly that there is a God, that He sends down rain on the just and the unjust, that He is a creative Creator and that He provides for us, in cycles of death and resurrection, a witness of His plan to sustain us and help us grow. We, the supposed crown jewel of Creation (we are; the "supposed" comes from our lack of living up to our potential), sputter and stall in our inconsistent efforts to praise Him and make Him known. Our glory--that we are made in the image and likeness of God--has been the source of our greater fall; would that we could observe the glory of God made manifest through our fellow creations and become worthier icons ourselves. Lord, have mercy.
This psalm, says Fr. Patrick, is best seen in the context of Christ's trial before Pilate. Most important to remember, however, is that in verses like vv. 37-42--
"37 I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.
38 I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet.
39 For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
40 You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me.
41 They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them.
42 Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets."
--we must remind ourselves of who "the real villians in this psalm" are: "the satanic spirits, the true enemies who consipred against the Holy and Righteous One. Consequently, it is the fallen angels that we should see referenced in so many lines of this psalm" instead of the Jews or the Romans, "for against them [the spirits] our Lord waged a combat without quarter."
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
MUCH travel the past week or so; drove out here from Ft. Worth (15 hours, thankyouverymuch) on the 22nd after school let out (Audra and Hope had flown out the Sat. before). Uneventful, except for two things...in order to make the trip in one day, I had to leave CRAZY early in the morning, and this meant much fog...it's interesting to watch the low-lying, rolling fog go over people's crops; it almost looks as if they're growing fog. The other event--not so picturesque--were the two traffic snarls which literally stopped traffic. Fortunately, I called my navigator in KY, who hopped online and, over the cell phone, found me a way around them. Made the trip in good time regardless, thanks be to God. Will drive back on the 2nd, stopping to meet with a friend in Nashville for lunch. The girls will fly back the following day. Your prayers would be appreciated.
More driving to see father-in-law's fam in Hopkinsville, and mom-in-law's fam in Sturgis. Easy conversation; very warm people. Good to see them again, even some new faces. Very welcoming. Spent Christmas Day morning in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church there in Sturgis--not Orthodox, of course, but at least none of this "let's-close-because-it's-Christmas-Day-and-people-should-be-with-their-families-instead-of-in-church" nonsense (yes, people should be with their families, but let's remember where our true family, is, ¿no?).
Speaking of true family, confession before leaving for Kentucky was, as far as I could perceive, a very reflective, honest (and relatively long) one. While my own heart's estimation may not do justice to the reality of my heart's state (for God's knowledge of me is greater than even my heart's--1 Jn. 3:20), it did, at least, pave the way for a much more attentive vespers service that night. God be praised for His forgiveness and for His help in overcoming our weaknesses. Will commune at St. Michael Orthodox Church in Louisville on Sunday, Lord willing. Always good to connect with brethren around the country.
Other things...the new church building is almost ready to be moved into! Pictures of the blessing by the archbishop will be forthcoming (once I get back to FW, Lord willing), as well as of the consecration shortly after (whenever THAT is). Much excitement over this new chapter in our life as a parish family; may God grant us increase as we make room for more souls to come into His true Church, to share in His true Banquet.
Hope is sitting up on her own and eating strained solid foods! What a mujercita! She, of course, is the darling of every house we take her to; not only is she getting spoiled by all the attention and people carrying her around, but we as her parents are getting spoiled by having so many live-in, on-call, free babysitters! 'Twill be a rude awakening for all parties involved when we return to normal, Ft. Worth life and all the work involved. If we can pry her away from the grandparents, that is....
It is amazing, though, to have Hope as a living, breathing, wriggling example of what our Lord looked like as an infant. To think: our Creator, the One Who spoke worlds that before were not, Who holds the whole universe in the hollow of His hand, became one of these chubby, squealing, grinning little wonders--helpless, humanly speaking, and sucking at His holy mother's breast. In that one act, our God provided for our nature, for our race, a way out of its destiny of decay and thus moved all of human nature from enmity to friendship ("compatibility," as my much-more-computer-savvy friend would say) with God. What was once impossible (the renewal of our nature and the salvation of our individual souls), regardless of how much we obeyed, has now been made possible by a cooing, peaceful, and gloriously divine infant resting in a cave, born of a spotless virgin, given flesh and blood in order to be the firstfruits of our salvation, flesh and blood of which we would all partake, for the forgiveness of our sins, and the healing of our souls and bodies.
As always, grateful for the chance to deny myself for forty days--learning through both the times when I succeed in this and when I fail--and thus to remind myself that He is the One thing needful in my life. Would that we would remember Him thus always.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Troparion - Tone 4
Nativity, O Christ our God,
Has shone to the world the Light of wisdom!
For by it, those who worshipped the stars,
Were taught by a Star to
The Sun of Righteousness,
And to know You, the Orient from on
O Lord, glory to You!
Kontakion - Tone 3
Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One,
And the earth offers a cave to
the Unapproachable One!
Angels with shepherds glorify Him!
The wise men
journey with a star!
Since for our sake the Eternal God was born as a Little
Sunday, December 04, 2005
For those of you who've followed this blog for a while know that Peter was my name in the Church. I "took" the name David today when I was tonsured a reader, for several reasons. One, my given first name is David, so tradition would dictate that I would "baptize" the name I've always had. I was planning on being chrismated as David, but my then-priest recommended that I consider Peter, which I did, for various reasons that had to do with my first confession and with certain hurdles I had upon coming into the Church which were overcome by meditating on certain events in St. Peter's life. So, for that time, St. Peter was a wonderful companion, and his icons will remain in our house always, but it seems time to "get back to my roots" and reclaim the name I've always had. Plus. the Prophet David is commemorated on the Sunday following Nativity, which is on or around my birthday, Dec. 27th. As I had a very difficult and premature birth, it seems to fit that he'd be looking out for me. Plus...reader of psalms, named after the writer of psalms who was said to be a man after God's own heart...it was just time, I thought.
Plus..."the reeder Peeder"...come on, now... ::wink::
Enjoy the photos; see you after the Feast of Nativity!
From left, the Archbishop, the reader David, the reader Daniel, and the reader Demetrios. His Eminence took a moment here after the formal tonsuring to offer his own words of exhortation on the importance of readers and reading in the Church.