A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: The Work of Satan Disguised as the Work of God
(The) kingdom (of God), is characterized, as we have shown, by humility and gentleness of heart. It is the combination of these two qualities that constitutes the perfection of the person created according to Christ. For every humble person is invariably gentle and every gentle person is invariably humble (St. Maximus the Confessor, "On the Lord's Prayer," Philokalia II).
I recently received by Google Alert an Associated Press report with the following first sentence: “Dozens of people led by an Orthodox priest smashed a menorah in Moldova's capital, using hammers and iron bars to remove the candelabra during Hanukkah, officials said.”i
My immediate reaction was profound sadness for the Jewish people celebrating this beautiful feast who suffered from this hateful deed and for all those who are true followers of Christ. I also have deep sadness for the scandal caused to those who would construe this as a Christ-like act and thus denigrate Christ and His true followers, instead of seeing the deed for what it is: a demonic act.
However in disclosing my feelings and understanding of this event I must also keep in mind several points. I must beware of the errors in reporting that are made by the news-media. I was not present at the reported incident. I do not know the name of the priest accused of this heinous lack of true Christ-like charity. I also have to keep fore-front in my mind Our Lord’s instruction: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” (Mt 7:1-5). Let me judge myself, and God will certainly judge me also.
But we also learn that acts or deeds can be judged. St. Matthew tells us Jesus said of His true followers: “You will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7: 15-16). The holy Apostle John wrote “…All wrongdoing is sin…” (1 Jn 5:17). Also to be kept in mind are the words of St. Paul: “speak evil of no one, …avoid quarreling, …be gentle” (Titus 3:2). St. John informs us what Jesus told him about the acts of a group who had left the Church “ …you hate the deeds …which I also hate” (Rev. 2: 6).
Thus without judging the individuals involved I can comment on what deeds, works or acts we should display or not display toward others.
A True Christian Reflects God
Who is God? “…God is love…” (1Jn 4:8). St. John goes on: “If any one says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1Jn 4:20). This is based on Jesus’ summary of all the commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets" (Mat. 22: 37-40).
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
The reason the Parable of the Good Samaritan is such a powerful example of the core of Christ’s teachings is that He spoke the parable as the answer to a simple but essential question posed to Him: "And who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29). The characters in the parable were two Jews and a Samaritan. One of the Jews was a temple priest, the other a Levite that is to say an assistant to the temple priests. The Samaritan, from the viewpoint of the Jews was an unbelieving foreigner of pagan decent. Because of ethnic and religious differences these groups had great dislike and discord between them. Jesus uses this extreme example to teach His followers who is our neighbor. In St. Luke’s rendering of the parable there is also another character, a man who “…fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Lk 10:30). It was the despised Samaritan, that “…had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” (Lk 10: 33-34)
Jesus was a Jew who did Jewish Things
The Background of Jesus
Jesus was a Jew, from the House of David: St. Matthew’s first verse of the first chapter of his Gospel tells us: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” As St. Luke (2:21) tells us as per Jewish law “…And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus…” Scholars tell us that the name Jesus is the English translation of the Hebrew word Yeshua or more properly Yehoshua which means ‘Yahweh’s salvation’ (Spangler & Tverberg, 2009).
Following Jewish Law after His birth
The Jewish law of consecration and purification, was given by God to the people of the First Covenant. As God told Moses: "Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine." (Dt 13:2). And God’s words as recorded by Moses in the Book of Leviticus (12: 2-3) "Say to the people of Israel, If a woman conceives, and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” Initiation in the Orthodox Church is by Holy Baptism, which Jesus Himself told us to do. St. Matthew (28: 18-20) records the command: “And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” St. Paul goes on to explain that baptism is a new circumcision so to speak: “In [H]im [Jesus] also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with [H]im in baptism, in which you were also raised with [H]im through faith in the working of God, who raised [H]im from the dead. (Col 2:11-12).
The Childhood of Jesus
Consider a general summary given to us by St. Luke (2:39) of the childhood of Jesus, with Mary His mother and Joseph considered His father: “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord.” Thus for example the boy Jesus, about 12 years of age going to the Temple at the time of Passover. St. Luke (2: 41-42) tells us: “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when [H]e was twelve years old, they went up according to custom…” Jesus was found teaching the rabbis, and as St. Luke (2:47) records: “… and all who heard [H]im were amazed at [H]is understanding and [H]is answers.”
The Beginning the Public Life of Jesus
Our Lord attended a Jewish wedding service at Cana, a little Galilean village outside of Nazareth. Here Jesus performed His first miracle, changing water into wine from water poured into stone water-pots meant to cleanse the dirt collected on the feet, hands and arms of the attendees. Of these vessels St. Marks informs us: “…(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.)” (Mk 7:3-4).
The essentials of the Cana miracle told to us by St. John are well remembered: “… the wine gave out, … His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever [H]e tells you." Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim…. "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested [H]is glory; (Jn 2: 2,5,7,10-11).
Jesus Read Prayers and Preached in the Synagogues
St. Mark (1:39) records quite concisely: “And [H]e went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues …” St, Matthew (4:23) tells us Jesus preached: “… the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.” Going to the synagogue was not occasional, but was a sabbath tradition which Jesus kept. St. Luke also tell us some of the detail of His preaching in which Jesus proclaimed Himself the fulfillment of the first covenant:
And [H]e came to Nazareth, where [H]e had been brought up; and [H]e went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And [H]e stood up to read; and there was given to [H]im the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And [H]e closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on [H]im. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Lk 4: 16-21).
Jesus Observed the Jewish Feasts
In the three years of his public life St. John records that Jesus observed the Passover Feast (Pesach, Pascha) each year. At the beginning of His public life St. John (2: 13) tells us: “The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” St. John (6: 3-4) tells us the next year to teach the people: “…Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” At this point Jesus performs the miracle of the loaves and fish. This miracle has great significance. It adumbrates, that is to say foreshadows the gift of Jesus of Himself that He gave to us at His last and third Passover of His public life, the Paschal supper wherein He changing bread and wine into His real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinityii, (of which we can partake of at every Divine Liturgy). Father Lev Gillet, (1980) also known a ‘A Monk of the Eastern Church’ states: “’He ….gave the loaves to [H]is disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.’ But above all, the multiplication of the loaves is the sign of a spiritual reality: Jesus is the food for our soul, the living bread that comes down from heaven …the Eucharist [but also] …His presence, [H]is word ….[H]is invisible action….”
Of this last Passover feast before His Passion, Crucifixion, three days burial and Resurrection for our salvation St. John gives this account: “Six days before the Passover …[days later]… a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet [H]im, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" (Jn 12:1, 12-13). St Matthew (26: 17,19) gives us more information about this particular Passover meal: “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the [P]assover?" And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the [P]assover.”
Jesus kept the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths — Sukkoth)iii as St. John records: “Now the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand….. The disciples of Jesus had gone up to the feast, then [H]e also went up, not publicly but in private.” (Jn 7: 2,9-10). Jesus was even at the Jerusalem temple to celebrate the Feast of Hanukkahiv itself. Once again the record of St. John (10:22-23): “It was the feast of the Dedication [Hanukkah] at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.”
Jesus Dressed in the Jewish Manner
Recall St. Matthew’s (9:20) account of the woman with a hemorrhage for 12 years: “And behold, a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind [H]im and touched the fringe of his garment [emphasis mine]….” This event is also recounted by St. Luke (8:44).
And St. Matthew (14: 34-36) also records when Jesus want to the region of Gennesaret “… they came to land … And when the men of that place recognized [H]im, they sent round to all that region and brought to [H]im all that were sick, and besought [H]im that they might only touch the fringe of [H]is garment [emphasis mine]; and as many as touched it were made well.” The point to be made is that there is nothing particularly notable about the tassels making up fringe of Jesus’ garment, but that He dressed according to the Jewish custom of His time. The healing power of is not in the garment or its fringe, but emanates from the power of Jesus Himself, through the action of the Holy Spirit. Similarly when an any object is blessed the prayer reads “…Lord, send down thy Holy Spirit, with a blessing from on high, upon this …..; that fortified by the might of heavenly protection, it may be potent unto bodily and salvation and succor and aid, unto all who shall desire to make use of it, thought Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Although there is no tradition or scriptural text that indicates Jesus would have worn other common Jewish items, but it is likely He would have because they were worn in His time. Also, wearing them in secret or in an unostentatious way would point out, demonstrate the ‘spirit’ behind them versus hypocritical or pharisaical ‘display’ He condemned during is public life. Recall Jesus words about this: "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men [emphasis mine]; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long …” (Mt 23: 2-5). Among these would have been phylacteries (tephillin).
Consider God’s words to Moses: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.” (Dt. 6:4-9). The small boxes, would have a scroll with God’s instruction above as well as words from Exodus (13: 1-16)v and Deuteronomy (11: 13-21)vi.
A Better Way
Cognitive Distortions Concerning the Jews
In other essays I have focused on the role of cognitive distortions in evoking dysfunctional emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression and the need to restructure such distortions into rational cognitions, functional emotions and appropriate behavior. (Morelli, 2005, 2006, 2009) Several cognitive distortions and their rational alternatives are especially relevant to what might be termed anti-Semitic incidents fueled by anger:
- Selective Abstraction: The focusing on one event while excluding others. In the case of the life of Jesus, focusing on the Jewish leaders, labeling them as emblematic of all Jews, is plain and simply distorted thinking and wrong. As pointed out above, not only was Jesus a Jew Himself, but His Apostles, disciples and His initial supporters were all Jews too.
- Arbitrary Inference: Drawing a conclusion unwarranted by the facts in an ambiguous situation. Concluding all Jews would have fit St. Luke’s (23: 20- 21 description of the events: “Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they shouted out, "Crucify, crucify him!"..” The ‘them’ assembled before Pilate were the select crowd called to rally by the Jewish leaders. Among those in the crowd were the Jews who were the supporters of Jesus who obviously would not have been the one’s shouting ‘Crucify Him.’ We know this because St. Luke (23:27) also records: “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.” Let us also not forget the woman at the foot of the cross, including Mary Christ’s mother, and the beloved disciple, John, were Jews.
- Polarization: Perceiving or interpreting events in all or nothing terms. Applying polarization to incidents such as this we might think of people, to be of two poles, those anti-Christ versus those who favor Christ. In fact many even among those who consider themselves Jewish fall in-between. Some are Jewish in name and culture only. Some label themselves, admittedly a minority: “Jews for Jesus.” They maintain many of the Jewish practices, and in fact run programs explaining the meaning of Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths, Sukkoth) and Hanukkah, pointing out the messianic elements and the relationships to Jesus. and how they believe these festivals are related to Jesus. Although not having the fullness of the Orthodox faith they share with us that Jesus is the Messiah, He is God the second person of the Holy Trinity, was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, died for the sins of mankind, and was resurrected from the dead for our Salvation.
- Generalization: The tendency to see things in always or never categories. Christ came for all mankind. As He Himself said: “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly….” (Jn 10: 10). To consider that some will never respond to God’s grace is fallacious thinking. St. Luke tells us: “And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope [emphasis mine] that they might feel after [H]im and find [H]im. (Acts 17: 26-27)True followers of Christ, should put on Christ. St. Paul told the Galatians (3: 26-28): “…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ came that all men may be saved. As the Orthodox theologian Paul Evdokimov (1998) as told us: “…all religion exists only by the Resurrection of Christ and is mystically supported by this event.”
- Catastrophizing: The perception that something is worse than it actually is. Even when Our Lord’s own words were not followed, He did not catastrophize. Recall the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus when He told him what he had to do to attain perfection. (Mt. 19: 16-26). Jesus’ reply, with no evidence of emotional overreaction on His part: "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Mt. 19:26)
- Emotional Reasoning: The judgment that one's feelings are facts. Due to human brokenness (Morelli, 2006), mankind is susceptible to emotionally dislike those who are perceived as different from themselves. Often this is done with those who are different by ethnicity, nationality, race and/or religion. Feelings however are not facts. The writer of Genesis tells us: “So God created man in [H]is own image, in the image of God [H]e created him … And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:27, 31).
The Old Law versus the New Law
Jesus Himself said: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished (Mt 5: 17-18). St. Luke (24:44-45) tells us of other words of Jesus: "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures…”
Bishop Hierotheos Vlachos (1998) summarizes “[t]he Church in the Old Testament”. Adam and Eve in Paradise had communion illumination of the nousvii with God”. Bishop Hierotheos describes St. Gregory of Sinai’s view that Paradise had “…great wealth and holiness of the ever-abounding grace there”. Bishop Hierotheos goes on to say that in spite of the fall of our first parents, “the Church does not disappear completely. Man struggles to restore his communion with God…In the Old Testament there were righteous men, like the Judges, Prophets and saints, who were blessed with divine revelation and vision.”
The Church Fathers have consistently made reference to God revealing Himself to us, albeit in a veiled hidden manner in the Old Testament. St. Gregory of Nyssa (2006), for example described Moses as a proto-type of Christ and a model for Christians seeking to interiorize Christ in their hearts. Bishop Hierotheos writes of St. John Chrysostom “referring to the righteous men of the Old Testament, [saying] they too belong to the Body of Christ, “because they too knew Christ.”” Bishop Hierotheos cites an significant understanding of St. John Chrysostom showing the continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament Church: “The faithful of the world everywhere, those who are, those who have been and those who will be. And again, those who were well pleasing to God before Christ’s appearance are one body.”
Bishop Hierotheos point out all the holy mysteries that are performed in the Orthodox Church “have reference to the Sacraments and rites of the Old Testament.” Scholars such as Canon Hugh Wybrew (1990) have pointed out the significant parallels between the liturgical services of the Eastern Church and the Temple worship of the Jews. As Fr. John Breck (2001) tells us the “key persons and events of the Old Covenant find their ultimate meaning in those of the New”.
Based on all this, can anyone who considers themselves a committed, faithful follower of Christ do anything but hold in high honor the Jewish Festivals that Christ Himself celebrated (including Hanukkah)? The disconfirming answer is so obvious I will not say anything further.
Christ: The Apex of Salvation History
With all the above said the story of Salvation History is incomplete. It is only complete with Christ Himself. For example in reading of Jesus attendance at the Hanukkah Feast, the Festival of Lights, (Jn 10: 22-23), as described above, I can meditate on the beginning of the Gospel of St. John (1:4-5): “In [H]im [the Word, Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness grasped it not”. I can be reminded of St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2Cor 4:6). I can also ponder St. Paul’s recounting his conversion experience: “…that the Christ must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles." (Acts 26:23). As Paul Evdokimov (1998) so eloquently writes of Christ and His Resurrection: “This makes all the events of history essentially [C]hristological. Christ is risen as head of the human body, and now all religions and all people can and ought to seek their life in [H]im.”
To see Christ as the Light of the World and the Hanukkah menorah as the “Type”viii of this Light can be grasped by the acquisition of spiritual knowledge and conforming our minds to the “…mind of Christ”, (1Cor 2:16) and the mind of His Orthodox Church.ix
A Reminder for Priests
An important consideration for priests, as they are the Icon of Christ: “…to whom much is given, of him will much be required…” (Lk 12:48)
The great contemporary Orthodox theologian, Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev (2002) writes:
The sacrament of priesthood is deeply significant, for the Church community receives its new pastor. Despite the Orthodox emphasis on the ‘royal priesthood’ of all believers, the Church also recognizes a difference between laypeople and ordained clergy, the latter being entrusted with the celebration of the Eucharist, and having the power of ‘binding and loosing’. Ordination into a hierarchical rank, be it of bishop, priest or deacon, is not only a change of status but a level to another level of existence.
Quoting Archimandrite Cyprian, Archbishop Hilarion goes on: “… a person who has been ordained ‘is no longer a simple layman, but a theourgos, an “initiator into mysteries” and a celebrant of the sacraments. He is not just Mister X, but Father X”. He goes on to quote St. Silouan the Athonite: “[This] grace is so exceedingly great that were men able to see the glory of this grace, the whole world would wonder at it; but the Lord has veiled it that His servants should not be puffed up but find salvation in humility … Truly noble is a priest —- the minister at God’s altar.”
With this in mind, how horrific is the alleged deed by the leader of the mob, as reported by the Associated Press at the start of this article. How many will see this as an act of Christ, His icon, which instead of leading to theosis whereby we “…become partakers of the Divine Nature,” (2Pt 1:4) will instead lead some into vilifying Christ and His Church. Such deeds, especially if done by a priest, an icon of Christ, are subject to Christ’s warning: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him…” (Lk 17: 2-3).
A Lesson for Us?
Is there a lesson for us to cherish and love the Jewish prayers and feasts as Jesus did? Absolutely! For Orthodox Christians we can understand that Christ Himself is the fulfillment of all these feasts and for that reason alone we should treasure them.
There is another lesson to add: that it is what is from the heart filled with the love of God and our neighbor that is the foundation of all and this is the fulfillment of the law. We can understand according to St. Paul about the law: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it…” (Rm 3: 21). We see for example that Abraham, was righteous before God, not because of his works, but because of his conviction that God was true. Thus Abraham was loyal and obedient. We also know that this righteousness, for Abraham, his followers and all of us is a grace, that is to say, a free gift from God. As St. Paul told the Ephesians (2: 4,8-9): “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which [H]e loved us, …is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast.” We as Orthodox Christians are no longer held to the requirements of the Mosaic law “For no human being will be justified in [H]is sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Rm 3: 20). We are held to the higher requirements of fulfilling the spirit of the law.
St. Paul tells the Galatians (5: 22-25) what this means: “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Later in this epistle St. Paul further explains: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” (Gal 6: 1-2)
Jesus’ most firm critiques were against was against those He called hypocrites: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Mt 23:23). In this teaching Christ spoke to the Pharisees, who accused Him of breaking the Sabbath law. He had already given them an example of distinguishing the letter versus the spirit of the law, telling them: “For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath" and then illustrating what the spirit of the law was by entering their synagogue, where He saw a man with a withered hand. The Apostle Matthew reports that the Pharisees asked Him “ ‘Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?’ so that they might accuse [H]im. He said to them, "What man of you, if he has one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Mat 12: 8-12).
Pray, Detach and Listen
How can we walk “…according to the Spirit…” (Rm 1:4) and “… put on Christ.?” (Gal 3:27). Paul Evdokimov (1998) notes: “God became incarnate so that man may contemplate [H]is face through every face. Perfect prayer seeks the presence of Christ and recognizes it in every being.” St. Paul counsels us to “…pray constantly…” St Isaac the Syrian (Brock, 1997) tells us: “…[i]t is in proportion to the honour which someone shows in his person to God during times of prayer … the door of assistance will be opened to him, leading to the purifying of the impulses and to illumination …”
For this to happen St. Isaac, in union with all the spiritual fathers of the Church, tells us: “The first virtue is detachment, that is, death in relation to every person or thing. This produces the desire for God….Then the fear of God will establish itself within us, and through this fear love will be make manifest.” (Philokalia I). St Diadochos of Photiki tells us that spiritual knowledge is the result: “Spiritual knowledge comes through prayer, deep stillness and complete detachment ….” Acquiring spiritual knowledge takes personal ascesis, as well as just noted, being in total conformity to the “Mind of Christ and His Church”.
Archbishop Hilarion (2000) quotes St. Isaac further understanding of the necessity of detachment and silence: “And this is the definition of stillness: silence to all things If in stillness you are found full of turbulence …your soul with cares…it is ridiculous … [rather we must] separate ourselves from every care.” As St. John of the Ladder tell us: “The lover of silence draws closer to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him.”
Union with Christ and His Church
Essential for all those who have been illumined by baptism, is to be in union with Christ and the Church He founded, the one, holy catholic, apostolicx and Orthodox Church. As Evdokimov (1998) tells us the Church Fathers almost take literally: “… continuation of the human person in the Incarnation of the Word, perpetuated especially in the Eucharist.” This is why we are not to imitate but to interiorize Christ. The incarnation states Evdokimov reveals: “..the theomorphosis of man, our transformation in God.” St. Paul tells us: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27). By uniting ourselves to Christ in His Incarnation and re-actualized in the Eucharist our nature can tend toward perfection and be truly Christ-like. Our spiritual life and actions will have a Christological structure. Thus our thoughts, words and deeds can reflect the dictum of Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998): “Christians must be distinguished for their spiritual nobility.”
A Wish for the Committed Christians of Moldova and Everywhere
Rebuild the Menorah
Help the Jewish people to rebuild their Menorah! St James (2:17) makes it very clear: “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” St. James (3: 12-13) continues: “Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Ageloglou, 1998) informs us of the lesson that I recommend could be learned by all concerning the incident prompting this essay: to be counted among those people who focus on “the good side of things.” In this case the apex of the Menorah is the ‘light of Christ.’ A healing question for all: what else and in whom else around us can we see Christ?
The Church Fathers inform us of the futility of idle talking and by implication idle praying. Thus consider the words of St. Isaac of Syria: “Prayer that is not accompanied by a good way of life is an eagle whose wings have been plucked.” (Brock, 1997) Jesus told us this Himself: “By this all men will know that you are [M]y disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35). St. Luke (14:35) tells us Jesus words: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion; and patience and dispassion engender hope in God .…” St. Maximus the Confessor (Philokalia II)
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[ii] Nicholas Cabasilas (1974), the great 14th Century theologian of the Holy Mysteries of the Orthodox Church states: "Our Lord assumed not only a body but also soul, mind, will and all that belongs to human nature, in order to unite [H]imself to our whole being, and completely penetrate us and resolve us into [H]imself by altogether joining what is [H]is to that which is ours ...He shares everything save sin in common with men...That is the power and grace of the Eucharist.”: Cabasilas also writes: "[Christ] did not merely cloth Himself in a body, but He also assumed a soul, mind, and will and everything else that is human, in order to be united to the whole of our nature and completely penetrate us and resolve us into Himself by totally joining what is His to that which is ours."
[iii] A major Jewish Feast that commemorates the wanderings of the ancient Jewish tribes in the Sinai desert in which they had to live in booths or tents.
[iv] Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a joyous feast. The Temple was desecrated in 167 BC by Antiochus King of the Seleucians and his army. Then after Jewish victory, [described in 1 Mac 1-4 the Temple was ‘re-dedicated to God in 165 B.C. A small vial of consecrated oil, burned for eight days in the Temple's menorah instead of just one day. Hence the description; The Festival of Lights.
[v] “The Lord said to Moses, "Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine." And Moses said to the people, "Remember this day, in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage, for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place; no leavened bread shall be eaten. This day you are to go forth, in the month of Abib. And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. And you shall tell your son on that day, 'It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.' And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year. "And when the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, as he swore to you and your fathers, and shall give it to you, you shall set apart to the Lord all that first opens the womb. All the firstlings of your cattle that are males shall be the Lord's. Every firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem.
And when in time to come your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him, 'By strength of hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both the first-born of man and the first-born of cattle. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb; but all the first-born of my sons I redeem.' It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes; for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt."
[vi] 13. "And if you will obey my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you shall eat and be full. Take heed lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, and the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and he shut up the heavens, so that there be no rain, and the land yield no fruit, and you perish quickly off the good land which the Lord gives you. "You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”
[vii] Nous is understood by the Spiritual Fathers of the Church as the spiritual, intuitive, experiential, simple apprehension of God in the heart. St. Paul (Rm 5:5) tells us: “…God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” Nous is to be distinguished from the ability to use intelligence or reason in problem solving, that is to say, understanding the world about us. Use of intelligence, however, can also be considered a command from God that we are told to obey. The writer of Genesis (1:26) tells us: “ Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
[viii] As told to us by Fr. John Breck (2001): “…typology stresses the connections between actual persons, events, places and institutions of the Old Testament, and parallel realities in the New Testament.” Another way of understanding the relationship between Old and New Testaments of Scripture is allegory. Breck describes allegory as “…a quest for the “hidden” or symbolic meaning of a given Old Testament narrative, a meaning considered to be higher, fuller or more spiritual than the meaning discerned by the typology”.
[ix] Of the [M]ind of the Orthodox Church Bishop Hierotheos writes: “Therefore it seems that the [O]rthodox [M]ind is to accept all the commandments of Christ and to live by them ….commandments and doctrine sanctify man...the Orthodox [M]ind is the [M]ind “of the Church. This means Orthodoxy cannot be understood apart from the Church, nor the Church apart from Orthodoxy. The Church is the real and sanctified Body of Christ. Orthodoxy is the teaching of the Church and the [D]ivine Eucharist is the true action of the Church. Thus Orthodoxy, Church and Eucharist are joined together. The whole orthodox teaching, the whole revelation is experienced in the Church. Therefore the [O]rthodox [M]ind is connected with the [M]ind of the [C]hurch and is unified. A person expresses his [M]ind of the Church not only by his obedience to the Bishop, but also by his obedience to the whole Tradition of the Church. Anyone who accepts the Tradition of the Church and denies the canonical Bishops, or anyone else who accepts the Bishops and denies the whole Tradition of the Church does not have the [M]ind of the Church.
[x] From the Creed (325-381 AD) read at every Divine Liturgy in all Orthodox Churches. http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/liturgical_texts/creed.asp
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, (www.antiochian.org/counse...) and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.