Tag Archives: Scripture Gospel of Matthew

St. Sebastian Dabovich: Explanation of Anathema

It may be necessary before we proceed to explain the word anathema; it means condemnation and excommunication until restored after sincere repentance. In some cases it may not be only a temporal ban, but a curse. Indeed, there are some members of the Church today, Christians, who do not fully realize that the Church of Christ is a living organism, which, through the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit, exists as a moral being, empowered within her sphere not only to bless, but also to curse. Such ones of course do not read the Bible. Those who studied the Epistles of the Apostles know that it was required of the Corinthians to put away from among themselves that wicked person (1 Cor. v: 13). Likewise the command was given to Titus, hear: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject (Tit. iii: 10). Did not our Lord Jesus Christ say: If thy brother neglect to hear the Church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican? (Matt. xviii: 17.) And again our Lord speaks: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xviii: 18).Book St Sebastion Preaching in the Orthodox Church

St. Neilos the Ascetic: . . .Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget . . .

BiltmoreSo we no longer pursue plainness and simplicity of life. We no longer value stillness, which helps to free us from past defilement, but prefer a whole host of things which distract us uselessly from our true goal. Rivalry over material possessions has made us forget the counsel of the Lord, who urged us to take no thought for earthly things, but to seek only the kingdom of heaven (cf. Matt. 6:33). Deliberately doing the opposite, we have disregarded the Lord’s commandment, trusting in ourselves and not in His protection. For He says: ‘Behold the fowls of the air: for they do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them’ (Matt. 6:26); and again: ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not toil or spin’ (Matt. 6:28). When He sent the apostles out to declare the good news to their fellow men. He even forbade them to carry wallet, purse or staff, and told them to be content with His promise: ‘The workman is worthy of his food’ (Matt. 10:10). This promise is to be trusted far more than our own resources.

Despite all this we go on accumulating as much land as we can, and we buy up flocks of sheep, fine oxen and fat donkeys – the sheep to supply us with wool, the oxen to plough and provide food for us and fodder for themselves and for the other animals, the donkeys to transport from foreign lands the goods and luxuries which our own country lacks. We also select the crafts which give the highest return, even though they absorb all our attention and leave no time for the remembrance of God. It is as if we accused God of being incapable of providing for us, or ourselves of being unable to fulfill the commitments of our calling. Even if we do not admit this. openly, our actions condemn us; for we show approval of the ways of worldly men by engaging in the same pursuits, and perhaps working at them even harder than they do.

+ St. Neilos the Ascetic, “Ascetic Discourse,” The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 1)

St. Nikolai: Reflection on Giving Alms to the Poor

Give to PoorThe Lord said: Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matthew 25:40).

Similar things happen in almsgiving and in Holy Communion. In Holy Communion we receive the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of bread and wine; in almsgiving we give to the Living Lord Christ Himself, in the form of the poor and needy. A certain man in Constantinople was unusually merciful. Walking along the streets of the city, he would press his gift into the hands of the poor and hurry onward, so he would not hear their gratitude or be recognized. When a friend of his asked how he had become so merciful, he replied: “Once in church I heard a priest say that whoever gives to the poor, gives into the hands of Christ Himself. I didn’t believe it, for I thought, ‘How can this be, when Christ is in heaven?’ However, I was on my way home one day and I saw a poor man begging, and the face of Christ shone above his head! Just then a passerby gave the beggar a piece of bread, and I saw the Lord extend His hand, take the bread, and bless the donor. From then on, I have always seen Christ’s face shining above the beggars. Therefore, with great fear I perform as much charity as I can.’Book Prologue of Ohrid Volume 2

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Reflection for September 18, The Prologue of Ohrid, Volume II

St. Isaac the Syrian: A humble man is . . .

Icon of St. Isaac the SyrianA humble man is never rash, hasty or perturbed, never has any hot and volatile thoughts, but at all times remains calm. Even if heaven were to fall and cleave to the earth, the humble man would not be dismayed. Not every quiet man is humble, but every humble man is quiet. There is no humble man who is not self-constrained; but you will find many who are self-constrained without being humble. This is also what the meek humble Lord meant when He said, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ [Matt 11:29]  For the humble man is always at rest, because there is nothing which can agitate or shake his mind. Just as no one can frighten a mountain, so the mind of a humble man cannot be frightened. If it be permissible and not incongruous, I should say that the humble man is not of this world. For he is not troubled and altered by sorrows, nor amazed and enthused by joys, but all his gladness and his real rejoicing are in the things of his Master. Humility is accompanied by modesty and self-collectedness: that is, chastity of the senses; a moderate voice; mean speech; self-belittlement; poor raiment; a gait that is not pompous; a gaze directed towards the earth; superabundant mercy; easily flowing tears; a solitary soul; a contrite heart; imperturbability to anger; undistributed senses; few possessions; moderation in every need; endurance; patience; fearlessness; manliness of heart born of a hatred of this temporal life; patient endurance of trials; deliberations that are ponderous, not light, extinction of thoughts; guarding of the mysteries of chastity; modesty, reverence; and above all, continually to be still and always to claim ignorance.

+ St. Isaac the Syrian,  Homily 72, Ascetical Homilies of St Isaac the Syrian

 

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: . . . He had a clear foreknowledge that His body would, in death, receive no other anointing. . . .

Myrrhbearing women at the tombAnd they said among themselves: “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” This was the subject of the Myrrh-bearing Women’s conversation as they climbed up to Golgotha, looking for nothing unexpected. The women’s weak hands where not strong enough to roll the stone away from the tomb’s entrance, for it was very great. Those poor women! They did not remember that the labour to perform which they were hastening so zealously to the tomb had already be performed during the Lord’s earthly life. At Bethany, at supper in the house of Simon the Leper, a woman had poured precious spikenard over Christ’s head. The omniscient Lord said at the time about this woman: “In that she hath poured this ointment on My body, she did it for My burial” (Matthew 26:12). He had a clear foreknowledge that His body would, in death, receive no other anointing. You may ask: then why did Providence allow these devout women to be so bitterly disappointed? To buy precious myrrh, to come fearfully through the dark and sleepless night to the tomb and not to perform that loving act for which they had sacrificed so much? But did Providence not reward their efforts in an incomparably richer way, in giving – in place of the dead body – the living Lord?

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women”

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: About Joseph of Arimathea

Icon Joseph of ArimatheaAt that time Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, which also waited for the Kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus. There was another great man who had come from Arimathea, or Ramathain, on Mount Ephrem: the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1 ). This Joseph is mentioned by all four Evangelists, specifically in connection with the dead Lord’s burial. John calls him a disciple of Jesus secretly (19:38); Luke – a good man and a just (23:50), Matthew – a rich man (27:57). (The Evangelist does not call Joseph rich from vanity, to show that the Lord had rich men among His disciples, “but in order to show how it was that he was able to get Jesus’ body from Pilate. To a poor and unknown man, it would not have been possible to penetrate to Pilate, the representative of Roman power.”- Jerome: “Commentary on Matthew“.) He was noble in soul: he feared God and waited for the Kingdom of God. In addition to his outstanding spiritual traits, Joseph was also a rich man of good standing. Mark and Luke call him a counsellor. He was, then, one of the elders of the people, like Nicodemus. Also, like Nicodemus, he was a secret admirer and disciple of the Lord Jesus. But, even though these two men were secret followers of Christ’s teaching, they were nevertheless ready to lay themselves open to danger by standing together with Christ. Nicodemus once asked the embittered Jewish leaders to their faces, when they were seeking an excuse to kill Christ: “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?” (John 7:51). Joseph of Arimathea laid himself open to even greater danger by taking thought for the Lord’s body when His known disciples had fled and dispersed, and when the Jewish wolves, having killed the Shepherd, could at any moment fall on the sheep. That what Joseph was doing was dangerous is indicated by the Evangelist by the word “boldly”. He needed, then, more than courage; he needed daring to go to Caesar’s representative and ask for the body of a crucified felon. But Joseph, as Nicephorus says, “in his greatness of soul, threw off his fear and shook off all subservience, showing himself to be a disciple of Jesus Christ”.

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homilies: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year, Volume 1, “22. The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women”

St. Ambrose of Milan: Why is it hard to believe that Mary gave birth in a way contrary to the law of natural birth and remained a virgin . . .

“Why is it hard to believe that Mary gave birth in a way contrary to the law of natural birth and remained a virgin, when contrary to the law of nature the sea looked at Him and fled, and the waters of the Jordan returned to their source (Ps. 113:3). Is it past belief that a virgin gave birth when we read that a rock issued water (Ex. 17:6), and the waves of the sea were made solid as a wall (Ex. 14:22)? Is it past belief that a Man came from a virgin when a rock bubbled forth a flowing stream (Ex. 20:11), iron floated on water (4 Kings 6:6), a Man walked upon the waters (Mt. 14:26)? If the waters bore a Man, could not a virgin give birth to a man? What Man? Him of Whom we read: ‘…the Lord shall be known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day; and they shall offer sacrifices, and shall vow vows to the Lord, and pay them’ (Is. 19:20).

In the Old Testament a Hebrew virgin (Miriam) led an army through the sea (Ex. 15:21); in the New testament a king’s daughter (the Virgin Mary) was chosen to be the heavenly entrance to salvation.”

+ St. Ambrose, Synodal Letter 44