Russian Orthodox Church
of St Nicholas
Dallas, Texas
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Redeeming the Time Vol. 01.23 Fourth Sunday of Great Lent Mar 16/29 1998


Redeeming the Time

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church Dallas TX

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

redeeming the time,because the days are evil.

Mar 16/29 1998

Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

St John of the Ladder

Vol. 01.23

News and Announcements *

Travelers *

Sick *

IMPORTANT SERVICES THIS WEEK *

Questions about the Healing of the Demoniac Son *

Questions about the Life of St Mary of Egypt *

Questions about Altar Serving *

All altar servers must give written answers to these questions before serving again. *

Gleanings from the Fathers *

How humility is achieved through obedience *

The Good Fight *

How to live in the World *

Let us run the race *

We should love the Lord as we do our friends *

Let us not slumber *

Despair is like suicide *

Answers - about the Demoniac Son *

News and Announcements

Travelers

Reader John Wilder is in China right now and will returning this coming week. Please pray for his safe return.

Sergius (Sumeet) and Tatiana are travelling in India and South Africa. Please pray for their safe return, and spiritual protection during their trip.

Catechuman Nicholas will be abroad for a month (in Copenhagen). Please pray for his safe return.

Sick

Please pray for the sick every day. Your prayer can be very simple: "Lord have mercy upon Thy (suffering) servantů"

    • Child Nikita
    • Nikita was born prematurely (at 26 weeks) in Australia, and is fighting for his young life.
    • Priest Martin
    • Serious back pain
    • Mother Seraphima - God's little sufferer
    • Tim Clader
    • serious ankle injury
    • David Miller
    • David will be having back surgery soon.
    • Alexandra
    • breast cancer
    • Emily
    • severe headaches
    • Iakavos (James)
    • James is the son of Fr Paul Volmensky (CA). He has problems with pain in his legs and ankles.

IMPORTANT SERVICES THIS WEEK

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Mar 19 / Apr 1 Wine & Oil

MM Chrysanthus and Daria

and those with them

6th Hour: Isa 41:4-14

Vesp: Gen 17:1-9 Prov 15:20-16:9

6:30 AM - Presanctified

7:00 PM - Matins and the Great Canon of St Andrew and Life of St Mary

Mar 20 / Apr 2 Wine & Oil

Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete

6th Hour: Isa 42:5-16

Vesp: Gen 18:20-33 Prov 16:17-17:17

Mar 21 / Apr 3 Wine & Oil

St. James the Confessor, bp Catania

6th Hour: Isa 45:11-17

Vesp: Gen 22:1-18 Pro 17:17-18:5

7:00- PM - Matins with the Akathist

Questions about the Healing of the Demoniac Son

QUESTION 1

The story of the exorcism of the demoniac son is read on the 10th Sunday after Pentecost and the 4th Sunday of Great Lent.

  • Which gospels report it?
  • Why is it read in the Great Lent, and in particular, in the latter half? Give two reasons.
  • What major event happened just before the casting out of the demon in the father's son?
  • Tell the composite story, using all three gospel accounts (in your own words)

QUESTION 2

The man told Jesus he had asked His disciples to heal his son, and they could not. Which disciples? Why had he not gone to Jesus directly?

QUESTION 3

Why did Christ ask the Father since He knows all things?

QUESTION 4

Explain the folk understanding of what a lunatic is.

QUESTION 5

What were the virtues and vices of the father? Cite scripture as evidence.

QUESTION 6

"And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us." (Mark 9:22) What is the inner meaning of this?

QUESTION 7

"Then Jesus answered and said O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Matthew 17.17)

Jesus' rebuke has deep inner meaning.

  • Explain 2 meanings for Jesus' exclamation of "How long shall I be with you?"
  • Explain the important connection between faithlessness and perversity.
  • Whom did Jesus rebuke?

QUESTION 8

Why did the apostles ask the Lord in private concerning their inability to cast out the demon? Why were the apostles unable to heal the boy?

QUESTION 9

"And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? {29} And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:28-29)

Prayer and fasting. How has the church applied this explanation to her daily life?

QUESTION 10

But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. (Mark 9.27) What does this mean?

Questions about the Life of St Mary of Egypt

QUESTION 1

We recall the story of St. Mary on a certain day in Great Lent, by reading her remarkable story aloud. When and in which service? What are other distinctives of this service?

QUESTION 2

Who wrote the life of St. Mary of Egypt? How did it make its way so firmly into the mind of the church?

QUESTION 3

Who are the main characters in the story of St. Mary of Egypt? Somewhat trivially, who are incidental characters?

QUESTION 4

What were the events that led up to Abba Zosimas meeting St. Mary? Where did he meet her?

QUESTION 5

Describe the first meeting between Abba Zosimas and St. Mary. What things did St. Mary do or say that proved to Abba Zosimas that she was blessed?

QUESTION 6

St. Mary was forced by the Abba to tell he story to him. Summarize it.

QUESTION 7

St. Mary's difficulties in the desert are extremely instructive for us. Her repentance was fervent and real, and yet she still had terrible struggles with demonic attacks. How long did these attacks last? What was their nature?

QUESTION 8

How old was St. Mary when she died?

QUESTION 9

Describe the second meeting between St. Zosimas and St. Mary. What instructions did she give him? What marvelous miracle occurred? What did Abba Zosimas reproach himself for?

QUESTION 10

Describe the burial of St. Mary.

Questions about Altar Serving

All altar servers must give written answers to these questions before serving again.

QUESTION 1

What is the primary duty of an acolyte?

QUESTION 2

Who may be an acolyte?

QUESTION 3

  1. What is the first thing that an altar server does upon entering the altar?
  2. The second thing?
  3. The third thing?

QUESTION 4

  1. What is the name of the vestment an acolyte uses?
  2. When does he put it on?
  3. What must he do before putting it on or taking it off?

QUESTION 5

What are the duties of a server in preparing for the Divine Liturgy?

QUESTION 6

Describe a small entrance for Divine Liturgy.

  1. When is the small entrance?
  2. What do the servers carry?
  3. Where do they go while waiting for the priest to leave the altar? Describe what they do.
  4. Describe the entrance from the point the priest takes the gospel book till he arrives on the ambvon in front of the royal doors
  5. When do the servers go back into the altar?
  6. What do the servers do when they reenter the altar?

QUESTION 7

  1. How many times is the censer used in Great Vespers with a Litya service following?
  2. When?
  3. How is the censer used and by whom?

QUESTION 8

  1. How many times is the censer used in Sunday matins?
  2. When?

QUESTION 9

  1. How many times is the censer used during the Oblation service and Divine Liturgy?
  2. When?

QUESTION 10

List all the things that need to be cleaned and put in order after the Divine Liturgy.

Gleanings from the Fathers

How humility is achieved through obedience

I once asked a very experienced father how humility is achieved through obedience. This was his answer: "A wisely obedient man, even if he is able to raise the dead, to have the gift of tears, to be free from conflict, will nevertheless judge that this happened through the prayer of his spiritual father; and so he remains a stranger and an alien to empty presumption. For how could he take pride in something that, by his reckoning, is due to the effort not of himself but of his father?"

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, 4

The Good Fight

Let us charge into the good fight with joy and love without being afraid of our enemies. Though unseen themselves, they can look at the face of our soul, and if they see it altered by fear, they take up arms against us all the more fiercely. For the cunning creatures have observed that we are scared. So let us take up arms against them courageously. No one will fight with a resolute fighter.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

How to live in the World

Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: `We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?' I replied to them: `Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man's domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Let us run the race

Let us run the race Let us eagerly run our course as men called by our God and King, lest, since our time is short, we be found in the day of our death without fruit and perish of hunger. Let us please the Lord as soldiers please their king, because we are required to give an exact account of our service after the campaign. Let us fear the Lord not less than we fear beasts. For I have seen men who were going to steal and were not afraid of God, but, hearing the barking of dogs, they at once turned back, and what the fear of God could not achieve was done by the fear of animals. Let us love God at least as much as we respect our friends. For I have often seen people who have offended God and were not in the least perturbed about it. And I have seen how those same people provoked their friends in some trifling matter, and then employed every artifice, every device, every sacrifice, every apology, both personally and through friends and relatives, not sparing gifts, in order to regain their former love.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

We should love the Lord as we do our friends

We should love the Lord as we do our friends. Many a time I have seen people bring grief to God without being bothered by it, and I have seen these very same people resort to every device, plan, pressure, plea from themselves and their friends, and every gift, simply to restore an old relationship upset by some minor grievance.

St. John Climacus. The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Bk 1

Let us not slumber

Let all of us who wish to fear the Lord struggle with our whole might, so that in the school of virtue we do not acquire for ourselves malice and vice, cunning and craftiness, curiosity and anger. For it does happen, and no wonder! As long as a man is a private individual, or a seaman, or a tiller of the soil, the King's enemies do not war so much against him. But when they see him taking the King's colors, and the shield, and the dagger, and the sword, and the bow, and clad in soldier's garb, then they gnash at him with their teeth, and do all in their power to destroy him. And so let us not slumber.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Despair is like suicide

Nothing equals or excels God's mercies. Therefore, he who despairs is committing suicide. A sign of true repentance is the acknowledgment that we deserve all the afflictions, visible and invisible, that come upon us, and even greater ones. Moses, after seeing God in the bush, returned again to Egypt, that is, to darkness and to the brick making of Pharaoh, who was symbolical of the spiritual Pharaoh. But he went back again to the bush, and not only to the bush, but also up the mountain. Whoever has known divine vision will never despair of himself. Job became a beggar, but he became twice as rich again.

St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Answers - about the Demoniac Son

ANSWER 1

The healing of the demoniac son by Christ at the request of his father is reported in all three synoptic gospels:

  • Matthew 17:14-23
  • Luke 9:37-42
  • Mark 9:17-29 (4th Sunday of Great Lent)

The reading speaks of fasting, and is therefore apropos to read during the Great Fast, and especially in the latter half of the fast, when many are weary and need to be reminded of the importance of fasting. It gives the reason we fast, for those who have ears to hear.

At the end of this reading, Christ tells His disciples of His upcoming passion. This event was very near the end of His earthly ministry, just after He had shown His divinity to His specially chosen group of disciples, Peter, James and John, on Mount Tabor. (The church commemorates this important event, which was also a harbinger of the resurrection and its implications, as the Transfiguration, on June 6th.)

Just as He prepared His apostles and disciples by speaking of His upcoming passion, so the church prepares her children for the contemplation of the passion and the Resurrection by speaking of these things in the latter half of Great Lent. We must take our cues from the mind of the church, and the things she chooses to speak about and ponder. It is time now to set our face towards Jerusalem, finish the fast and be enlightened by the Resurrection. Let us redouble our efforts now, knowing what is shortly to come.

The Story:

A man with a son, whom he called a "lunatic", came to Jesus and begged him to heal his son, at the same time saying that he had taken his son to the apostles and they could not heal the boy. The man told Christ that the boy sometimes threw himself into the fire, and sometimes the water. Christ reacted with a complaint, about the "faithless and perverse" generation. He called the boy to Himself and rebuked the demon, casting him out. The apostles came to Jesus when they were alone, and asked Him why they could not cast out the demon. He told them it was because of their unbelief, and "this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting". He told them that if they had faith "as a mustard" seed that they could accomplish anything. Immediately after this, he told his apostles of His upcoming betrayal, death and resurrection.

ANSWER 2

The man approached the remaining disciples left behind when Jesus ascended Mt. Tabor with Peter, James and John. He approached them not only because Jesus was gone, but also because the disciples had been given the power to heal, and this was well known. Requests to them were quite common.

ANSWER 3

Jesus often asks questions so that the answer could be heard by those around Him. As the God-man, He knew all things, and had no need to ask questions, but we need to hear the answers! In this case, our Lord wanted us to fully understand the evil condition of the boy, and the hopelessness of his father. After the healing, people would remember how terrible the former state of the boy was, and marvel at the power of God.

In the exorcism prayers at the making of a catechumen, the priest says of the demons: "... Who hath not even power over swine...". The church knows the demons are powerless before God. One single angel or the lowest rank is incomparably more powerful than the whole host of demons. We poor ones need to remember the power of God and not be fooled by the parlor tricks and subterfuge of the demons.

ANSWER 4

There was and is a prevalent superstition that the moon can cause madness. Lunatics were believed to be those who were affected by the moon, and went mad when it was in certain stages. Of course, true Christians understand that the moon has nothing to do with madness, or with demon possession, which often makes a person appear to be mad. The crafty demons want people to believe in the moon, while they remain invisible, and their evil actions unknown and concealed.

ANSWER 5

Like most people, the father was a mixture of good and bad. He had very slight belief, a mere wisp of belief, weak and unsteady, but it was enough to cause him to (imperfectly) beg Christ for healing, and to receive it.

We can see the man's unbelief and complaining spirit in the way he asks Christ for healing. He does not blame himself, as he should, but blames others

"And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; {18} And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not." (Mark 9:17-18)

Christ clearly shows the man that it is HIS unbelief and depravity which has contributed to his son's terrible state (Christ's rebuke is more far-reaching than this one point. See a question which addresses this, below). There is a clear lesson here for parents who will hear it. We must hold ourselves accountable for the good upbringing of our children.

"And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither." (Luke 9:41)

The father shows the germ of belief, or, shall we say, a small seed, not only by bringing his son to Christ, but also by his plaintive cry:

"And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24)

ANSWER 6

The Fathers reveal the mind of the church concerning the inner meaning of the demonized boy falling into fire and water. These two things summarize the sins of mankind. Fire represents "hot" things - anger and desire (lust, hatred, etc). Water represents the "pounding surf of worldly cares". (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9) The demons entice us in turns with temptations to both of these kind of sins. Let us not make the fatal mistake of only understanding the plight of the boy to be possible only for the demon possessed. We poor Christians constantly allow ourselves to fall into the fire and the water, and in so doing, according to the mind of the church, we reveal in ourselves a kind of insanity. The fire of lust and desire burns more surely and completely than a material fire and the abyss of worldly cares and misplaced priorities drowns the soul. We must flee the fire and the water. At the end of the passage are important instructions each Christian must follow if he is to flee the fire and water. See another question, below.

ANSWER 7

Our Lord's statement, " O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?" (Matthew 17.17) was uttered near the end of His earthly ministry, and before His Great Passion.

He was expressing a longing to be back with His Father, and to leave the corrupt earth, because it was a torment for Him to coexist among so many with corrupt belief (Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9, and Matthew 17) He was also prophesying the nearness of His passion, and departure from the earth.

Jesus' rebuke was directed towards many. He rebuked the father for his unbelief and perversity, and in so doing taught him to take responsibility for his actions. He rebuked the child, for as Blessed Theophylact says, "... it appears that he too, lacked faith and his lack of faith had given occasion for the demon to enter him" (Commentary on Matt 17:16-18). He also rebuked the scribes and Pharisees, because He smelled the stench of their unbelief.

Christ emphatically shows the relationship between perversity and unbelief. In our day, many fool themselves and compartmentalize their lives, because they do not understand the relationship of their actions and their belief. Perversity is acting in ways that are contrary to our nature. (See Theophylact, Commentary on Luke 9:37-33) We were created for holiness and purity. To the pure, all things are pure, and they are given the ability to understand the depths of holy things, as God reveals them. On the contrary, the perverse are unable to believe. Their perversity breeds faithlessness, which in turn estranges them from the source of all good, increasing their perversity.

Christian, mark these words of our Lord well. If you suffer from doubts, or despondency, blame your perversity! Examine yourself carefully: what part of God's law are you foolishly ignoring? Are you making excuses for your inconsistent fasting, or prayer, or attendance at the divine services? If you are not availing yourself of these mercies, then you have found the cause of your unbelief. Are you battling your lust or anger or jealously, or giving in to these abominable things at the slightest provocation? You have found another cause of your unbelief. Are you preoccupied with worldly cares and concerns, so much so that you are like the "double minded man", who is "unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8) God is not responsible for your unbelief, or your perversity. Acknowledge your sin, run to confession, and begin to live fiercely as an Orthodox Christian and the sweet breeze of belief will refresh you.

"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. {18} Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. {19} Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. {20} But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:17-20)

ANSWER 8

The apostles were afraid that they had lost the grace of God, since they had been able to heal so freely before encountering the demon possessed boy. This was well after the Lord had sent them out to heal, saying: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: {6} But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {7} And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. {8} Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Mat 10:5-8)

They were unable to heal the boy because of their unbelief. The father's entreaties to them were likewise not answered because of his unbelief. Also, the demons in the boy were firmly implanted. Our Lord makes it clear in His answer to His apostles that such firmly implanted demons (and in the case of all men, whether demons live within them or not, their passions) can only be expelled by great effort, the assiduous application of God's laws, and the consistency of a life lived in the mind of the church:

Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? {20} And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. {21} Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Mat 17:19-21)

ANSWER 9

It is axiomatic for those who have experienced God's strengthening that prayer AND fasting are utterly necessary in order to purify the soul. The church has always understood this important connection between our bodies and our souls. Only in our evil days do so many who call themselves Christian, even the Orthodox, ignore God's laws concerning this most necessary weapon we must employ if we wish to be victorious in the arena of our life.

We poor ones are beset by many weaknesses and passions. Many of these things cannot be extricated except by great desire and hope in God, and the natural results of this desire - the following of God's laws and instructions. Here our Lord shows us that some of those things that cast us into the fire and the water can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. We are foolish if we do not heed these words or if we heed them partially, according to our convenience and whims.

ANSWER 10

This short description describes in microcosm the synergy between God and man, and the way we must go for our salvation.

By taking the boy by the hand, Christ shows us that He is the only One who can strengthen man's power to act. With God's help, man can do nothing. The whole power of the incarnation is shown here. Christ took on our flesh, and imbued it with the potential for perfection. He continually strengthens man's will, and makes him able to comprehend the Godhead, and become like God in moral perfection. (See Bl. Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 9:19-27)

We must understand however, this important truth: "God first helps us, and then we ourselves are required to work" (Ibid.). This is clearly indicated by the boy arising. He was initially helped, then he stood up of his own accord. This arising is the necessary effort of a man himself to do good.

A Christian will not be saved, unless he makes a great effort. Christian! Know from Whom your ability is given and why grace comes to enlighten and strengthen you, and then work on your salvation with fear and trembling.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Good things to read about the exorcism of the demonic son

Blessed Theophylact - Commentaries on St Matthew, Mark and Luke

Blessed Archbishop Nicolai Velomirivitch, Sermons

"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. All issues may be found at: http://www.orthodox.net/redeeming

All unsigned or unattributed portions Copyright 1998 Fr Seraphim Holland

Address: 2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75071

Phone: 972 529-2754

Email: seraphim@orthodox.net

Web: http://www.orthodox.net

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Phone: 972 529-2754
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