Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
Christ is in our midst! He was and is and ever shall be. Ο Χριστός έν τώ μέσω ημών. Και ήν και έστι και έσται.
PRAYER FROM THE SIXTH HOUR
O Christ God, on the sixth day and hour, You nailed to the Cross the sin which rebellious Adam committed in paradise. Tear asunder also the bond of our iniquities, and save us! You have wrought salvation in the midst of the earth, O Christ God. You stretched out Your All-Pure hands upon the Cross; You gathered all the nations that cry aloud to You: Glory to You, O Lord!
On March 20th Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Nicetas the Confessor; Fathers martyred at the Monastery of Saint Savvas; Holy Martyrs Rodian, Akylas, Lollion, and Emmanuel; Saint Ephrosynos of Novgorod; Saint Martin of Braga in Iberia; Saint Austreigiselis, Bishop of Bourges; Saint Wulfram, missionary; Saint Archil II, king of Georgia; Holy Neomartyr Myron of Crete (1793); Seven virgin Martyrs of Amisos.
SEVEN HOLY VIRGIN MARTYRS OF AMISOS. Alexandra and her companions, Claudia, Ephrasia, Matrona, Juliana, Ephemia, and Theodosia, lived during the third and fourth century persecution of the Christians by the pagan Roman Emperor Maximian. Men and women of every age group were slaughtered. These seven Christian virgins lived in Amisos, which is present-day Samsun, Turkey on the Black Sea. They presented themselves before the ruler of that city and censured him for these crimes. They confessed that Jesus Christ is the True God and called the Emperor beastly, inhuman, and an enemy of the Truth. He had them stripped, beaten with rods, and their breasts severed They were suspended, lacerated, and thrown into the violent heat of a furnace. There they surrendered their souls into the hands of God.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs and Holy Confessors, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Old Testament: Isaiah 25:1-9
Old Testament: Genesis 9:8-17
Old Testament: Proverbs 12:8-22
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Everyone is made in God's image; but to be in His likeness is granted only to those who through great love have brought their own freedom into subjection to God. For only when we do not belong to ourselves do we become like Him Who through love has reconciled us to Himself. No one achieves this unless he persuades his soul not to be distracted by the false glitter of this life" (St. Diadochos of Photiki).
CHRIST IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Source: Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" [St. John 1:1].
It is no coincidence that Saint John begins his gospel in the same way as begins the first book of the Old Testament: "In the beginning..." (Genesis 1:1). Orthodox Christianity rests on the belief in "one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father before all ages." Christ was there from the beginning. Yet while many Christians are happy to proclaim this doctrine in Sunday worship or in their daily prayers without any serious consideration for its implications, just as many are surprised by the suggestion that the Word [Logos] (the Pre-incarnate Christ) was not only there (somewhere in the background) from the beginning, but that He actually appeared and spoke to the prophets--that He in fact was from the beginning the one who reveals and declares the Father. And yet this doctrine is absolutely imperative for a correct understanding of the Old Testament.
The Christian Orthodox exegesis of the Old Testament is founded upon three vital affirmations:
- "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching" (2 Timothy 3:16)
- The Old Testament speaks of Christ.
- All manifestations of God in the Old Testament are of the Word [Logos].
Let us examine just two of these manifestations - the appearance of the three men to Abraham at the plain of Mamre (Genesis 18) and the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush on Sinai (Exodus 3 and 33).
THE HOSPITALITY OF ABRAHAM
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. Then the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." [Saint John 8:56-58]
Genesis 18 describes the appearance of three men to Abraham by the plain of Mamre. These three men have for some time been regarded by Orthodox Christians as a type of the Holy Trinity, an idea that has been popularized by the famous icon of the Trinity by Rublev, which is adapted from the original icon of the appearance of the three men to Abraham, knows as the 'The Hospitality of Abraham' or in Greek 'Φιλοξενία του Αβραάμ'. But a closer look at the text suggests that the three men (Angels) are not merely a type of the Trinity:
"And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground. And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant... And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord...And the Lord went His way, as soon as He left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place."
What is interesting is that Abraham addresses only one of the men as Lord. Clearly, 'Lord' here is not a mere address of respect, like 'sir', or otherwise he would have said 'lords', but it is a recognition that one of them is greater than the others. And as we see in verse 22, two of the men depart and we are told that than the others. And as we see in verse 22, two of the men depart and we are told that 'Abraham stood yet before the Lord.
What we have here is not a mere representation of the Holy Trinity, but a manifestation of the Word (Logos) of God, accompanied by what are probably two Angels. This is a certainly in keeping with the Orthodox exegesis that all manifestations of the deity in the Old Testament are of the Son and not of the Trinity in its fullness.
This view is expressed by Saint Justin Martyr in the second century:
"Moses, therefore, that blessed and faithful servant of God, declares that the one who was seen by Abraham at the oak of Mamre was God, accompanied by two Angels, who were sent, for the condemnation of Sodom, by another, namely by the One Who always remains above the heavens, Who has never been seen by any human being, and who of Himself holds converse with none, Whom we term the Creator of all things, and the Father".
CHRIST AND MOSES
"If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of Me" (Saint John 5:48).
The most famous manifestation of the deity in the Old Testament is the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-5).
"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, 'I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up.' When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, 'Moses! Moses!' And Moses said, 'Here I am.' 'Do not come any closer,' 'God said, 'Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.' Then He said, 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob'. At this Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God."
Before we go any further, something must be said about 'the Angel of the Lord' that appeared to Moses 'in flames of fire from within the bush.'
THE ANGEL OF GREAT COUNSEL
Patristic teaching holds that "the Angel of the Lord is one of the many names of God the Word (Logos) in the Old Testament. It is in fact, one of the earliest Christological titles. More often than not, "the Angel of the Lord" refers not to one of the bodiless powers of heaven, but to the pre-incarnate Christ. Angel means messenger, and in the Old Testament an "Angel" was not necessarily one of the heavenly court--it could also be a human being. The Word is God's Messenger par excellence. Thus Saint Justin Martyr repeatedly refers to Christ as an Angel. The primary source for Justin and other Church Fathers was probably the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 9:6.
"For a Child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, Whose government is upon His shoulder: and His name is called the Angel of Great Counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him."
And yet Justin, despite his copious use of the term "Angel of the Lord" or "Angel of Great Counsel", never attempts to clarify that the Angel is the Word of God, for that Christ was called Angel was obvious to anyone who was familiar with the Septuagint Isaiah 9:6. Since it was widely acknowledged that Isaiah 9:6 refers to the Messiah, the title "Angel of Great Counsel" refers also to Christ, and thus it also follows that Christ is the Angel of the Lord Who appears to the Prophets of the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 15-22; Genesis 28-35; Exodus 3, Joshua 5-6).
Saint Justin Martyr clearly saw in the Angel of the Lord in the Burning Bush a manifestation of the Son of God.
Why do Moses and Elijah appear before Christ on Mount Tabor?: to illustrate that Christ is the God Who appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and to Elijah on Mount Horeb.
The Church Fathers teach us that everything in the Old Testament is about Christ. What should be clear then, after this very brief treatment of the subject of Christ in the Old Testament, is that we have barely begun to scratch the surface. From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is filled with manifestations of the Word [Logos], with prefigures and types of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Cross, Baptism and the Eucharist, not to mention the countless prophecies about Jesus. For the Church Fathers, it was self-evident that the Old Testament was all about Christ, and he is truly in every sense the "fulfillment of the law and the prophets." For Christianity, the Old Testament, is as Saint Paul teaches us, a tutor which leads us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24). Its true significance and inspiration can be found only when we read and examine it in a Christological light. We need to regain this Patristic understanding of the Old Testament, to read its books with the eyes of the hymn-writers and Fathers of the Church, seeing Christ in everything. As Father Ephrem Lash has put it:
"The hymn-writers did not have to search for types and images; 'wood' or 'tree', immediately suggested the Cross; vessels or buildings containing something precious, the womb of the Mother of God. For the Fathers and hymn-writers, all the words of Scripture spoke of Christ, the Word incarnate, and they have bequeathed to the Church an extraordinary wealth of theology and spirituality, which is a constant reminder that Christianity is not a religion of a book, but of a Living Word." [Biblical interpretation in Worship. The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Theology. Cambridge University Press, 2008. p. 47]
Please note: How blessed are we Orthodox Christians to be entrusted with God's Holy Church. "A glorious Church not having spot of wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish...For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the Church" (Ephesians 5:27-29). Let us all, by the Grace of God, protect the virtue of our Church and not compromise it in any way or form. We will give accounting to "Christ Who is the Head of the Church; and the Savior of the body" (v.23) at the Second Coming.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God